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Research shows a direct correlation between high-quality early learning and children's positive long-term outcomes in life, including increased educational attainment, healthier lifestyles, and more successful careers. NAEYC Accreditation helps teachers and other staff at early learning programs develop a shared understanding and commitment to quality. The accreditation process leads to increased staff morale, greater staff retention, and a more positive, energetic work atmosphere overall—enabling centers to provide a solid foundation for all children's success in life.
NAEYC Accreditation helps families recognize quality early learning programs and feel comfortable knowing that their children are receiving a high-quality, research-based education that will prepare them for future success. NAEYC Accreditation offers programs access to continuous quality-improvement , the latest research on best practices, training, technical assistance, visibility on family-focused search engines (including NAEYC’s own program search database), and much more.
For a comprehensive list of benefits, view our accredited program benefit page.
Overview of the 10 Standards
Standard 1: Relationships
Program Standard: The program promotes positive relationships between all children and adults to encourage each child’s sense of individual worth and belonging as part of a community and to foster each child’s ability to contribute as a responsible community member.
Rationale: Positive relationships between adults and children are essential for the development of children’s sense of personal responsibility and for fostering their capacity for self-regulation, their constructive interactions with others, and their academic functioning and mastery. Warm, sensitive, and responsive interactions with adults help children develop a secure, positive sense of self and encourage them to respect and cooperate with others. Positive relationships with adults help children gain the benefits of instructional experiences and resources. Children who see themselves as highly valued are more likely to feel secure, thrive physically, get along with others, learn well, and feel part of a community.
Standard 2: Curriculum
Program Standard: The program implements a curriculum that is consistent with its goals for children and that promotes learning and development in each of the following areas: social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive.
Rationale: A curriculum that draws on research assists teachers in identifying important concepts and skills as well as effective methods for fostering children’s learning and development. When informed by teachers’ knowledge of individual children, a well-articulated curriculum guides teachers so they can plan learning experiences that promote children’s growth across a broad range of developmental and content areas. A curriculum also helps ensure that the teacher is intentional in planning a daily schedule that (a) maximizes children’s acquisition of desired knowledge and skills through the effective use of time and materials and (b) offers opportunities for children to learn through play and through structured activities, individually and in groups, according to their developmental needs and interests.
Standard 3: Teaching
Program Standard: The program uses a variety of developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate and effective teaching approaches that enhance each child’s learning and development in the context of the program’s curriculum goals.
Rationale: Teaching staff who purposefully use multiple instructional approaches optimize children’s opportunities for learning. These approaches include strategies that range from structured to unstructured and from adult directed to child directed. Children bring to learning environments different backgrounds, interests, experiences, learning styles, needs, and capacities. When selecting and implementing instructional approaches, teachers’ consideration of these differences helps all children learn. Instructional approaches differ in their effectiveness for teaching different elements of curriculum and learning. For a program to address the complexity inherent in any teaching–learning situation, it must use a variety of effective instructional approaches. In classrooms and groups that include teacher assistants, or teacher aides, and specialized teaching and support staff, the expectation is that these teaching staff work as a team. Whether one teacher works alone or a team works together, the instructional approach creates a teaching environment that supports children’s positive learning and development across all areas.
Standard 4: Assessment of Child Progress
Program Standard: The program uses a variety of formal and informal assessment approaches to provide information on children’s learning and development. These assessments occur in the context of reciprocal communications between teachers and families, and with sensitivity to the cultural contexts in which children are developing. The program uses assessment results to inform decisions about the children in their care, to improve teaching practices, and to drive program improvement.
Rationale: Teachers’ knowledge of each child helps them to plan an appropriately challenging curriculum and to tailor instruction that responds to each child’s strengths and needs. Further, systematic assessment is essential for identifying children who may benefit from more intensive instruction or intervention or who may need additional developmental evaluation. This information ensures that the program meets its goals for children’s learning and developmental progress as well as informs program improvement efforts.
Standard 5: Health
Program Standard: The program promotes the nutrition and health of children and protects children and staff from illness.
Rationale: To benefit from education and optimize quality of life, children need to be as healthy as possible. Health is a state of complete physical, oral, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (World Health Organization 1948). Children depend on adults (who also are as healthy as possible) to make healthy choices for them and to teach them to make healthy choices for themselves. Although some degree of risk taking is desirable for learning, a quality program prevents hazardous practices and environments that are likely to result in adverse consequences for children, staff, families, or communities.
Standard 6: Staff Competencies, Preparation, and Support
Program Standard: The program employs and supports a teaching and administrative staff that have the qualifications, knowledge, and professional commitment necessary to promote children’s learning and development and to support families’ diverse needs and interests.
Rationale: Children in early learning programs benefit most when teaching and administrative staff have high levels of formal education and specialized professional preparation. Staff who have specific preparation, knowledge, and skills in child development and early childhood education are more likely to engage in warm, positive interactions with children, offer richer language experiences, and create higher quality learning environments. Opportunities for teaching and administrative staff to receive supportive supervision and to participate in ongoing professional development ensure that their knowledge and skills reflect the profession’s ever-changing knowledge base.
Standard 7: Families
Program Standard: The program establishes and maintains collaborative relationships with each child’s family to foster children’s development in all settings. These relationships are sensitive to family composition, language, and culture.
Rationale: Young children’s learning and development are integrally connected to their families. Consequently, to support and promote children’s optimal learning and development, programs need to recognize the primacy of children’s families, establish relationships with families based on mutual trust and respect, support and involve families in their children’s educational growth, and invite families to fully participate in the program.
Standard 8: Community Relationships
Program Standard: The program establishes relationships with and uses the resources of the children’s communities to support the achievement of program goals.
Rationale: As part of the fabric of children’s communities, an effective program establishes and maintains reciprocal relationships with agencies and institutions that can support it in achieving its goals for the curriculum, health promotion, children’s transitions, inclusion, and diversity. By helping to connect families with needed resources, the program furthers children’s health, development, and learning.
Standard 9: Physical Environment
Program Standard: The program has a safe and healthful environment that provides appropriate and well maintained indoor and outdoor physical environments. The environment includes facilities, equipment, and materials to facilitate child and staff learning and development.
Rationale: The program’s design and maintenance of its physical environment support high-quality program activities and services and allow for optimal use and operation. Well-organized, equipped, and maintained environments support program quality by facilitating the learning, comfort, health, and safety of those who use the program. Program quality is enhanced by also creating a welcoming and accessible setting for children, families, and staff.
Standard 10: Leadership and Management
Program Standard: The program effectively implements policies, procedures, and systems that support stable staff and strong personnel, fiscal, and program management so all children, families, and staff have high-quality experiences.
Rationale: Excellent programming requires effective leadership and governance structures and comprehensive, well-functioning administrative policies, procedures, and systems. Effective leadership and management create the environment for high-quality care and education by (a) ensuring compliance with relevant regulations and guidelines; (b) promoting fiscal soundness, program accountability, effective communication, helpful consultative services, and positive community relations; (c) maintaining stable staff; and (d) instituting ongoing program planning as well as continuous program improvement.
Path to Accreditation
Achieving NAEYC Accreditation is a four-step process that involves self reflection and quality improvement in order to meet and maintaining accreditation over a five-year period. Directors, teachers, and families all participate in the process. Programs are required to meet standards grouped into 10 areas: relationships with children, curriculum, teaching approaches, child assessment, nutrition and health, staff qualifications, relationship with children's families, relationship with the community, physical environment, and program leadership and management.
By design, the NAEYC Accreditation process looks different for each program. While the standards do not change from program to program, the path to implementation is tailored for each center pursuing accreditation. We take into account a variety of factors, including geographic location and available resources. However, one element of the process is the same for all programs: our continuous support.
NAEYC is committed to providing collaborative guidance to centers throughout the accreditation process. In addition to national-level support, centers pursuing accreditation have access to accreditation facilitation projects (AFPs). Led by experts from every participating state, AFPs provide technical assistance to programs working toward NAEYC Accreditation.