Early Childhood Program Receives National Accreditation
Edgecombe Community College recently joined an elite group of colleges across the nation when it received accreditation for its early childhood education program by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
NAEYC accreditation is a voluntary process. Though NAEYC accreditation is not required for early childhood teacher education programs, it is a recognized standard of excellence for programs that prepare teachers at the associate degree level.
“We are very proud that our early childhood education program has been distinguished as having the highest professional standards among U.S. colleges,” says ECC President Dr. Deborah Lamm.
The NAEYC awarded the distinction in August, granting accreditation to associate degree programs at 10 institutions of higher education in the country. Since its founding in 2006, the NAEYC has accredited 180 early childhood education programs.
“The curriculum the students have here is a bit more rigorous than students might receive at other colleges that do not have NAEYC accreditation,” according to Jennifer Derby, early childhood education instructor at ECC.
The college’s accreditation process started about five years ago when early childhood faculty began a self-study to see what program changes were needed to reach NAEYC standards. Reforms included adding more hands-on training for students and coordinating on-site learning experiences with local child care programs and elementary schools so that students could interact with children in various settings.
A group of local teachers, child care providers, and ECC students worked with faculty to develop core values for the early childhood education program. These core values are: promoting healthy families; recognizing multiple influences on development; valuing play, creativity, and appreciation of nature and the environment; and understanding professional and ethical responsibilities.
“We spent a lot of time examining all aspects of our program,” says Kelly Anderson, early childhood education instructor. “As a result, we added a lot of rigor to our courses and instruction in order to meet the high standards set by the NAEYC.”
A $17,000 grant helped pay for the self-study. After an on-site visit earlier this year, the National Association for the Education of Young Children awarded accreditation to ECC. The distinction operates on a seven-year cycle, with annual reviews to ensure that standards are being maintained.
The NAEYC says the accreditation system raises the quality of teacher education by establishing professional preparation standards, which in turn raises the quality of early learning programs serving young children.
“Studies have shown that the No. 1 indicator of quality early childhood facilities is the education level of the teachers,” Anderson says. “Being accredited means that anyone hiring our graduates can be assured that they attended a demanding program and are well-prepared for teaching young children.”