Quality Initiatives and Accreditation Committee

Nicole Willard, EdD

Quality Initiatives and Accreditation Committee

In recent years, there has been a lot of change in the early childhood education (ECE) field. The COVID-19 pandemic placed a very public spotlight on the advocacy work that educators and care providers all over the country have been doing for decades. Many states are discussing the implementation of programs like universal preschool, creating the structure for a mixed delivery system for child care, and are trying to find consistent and sustainable funding opportunities for the ECE field.

In these conversations the idea of "quality" is often at the center. Families are looking to ensure that children have access to quality care and education. Teachers and leaders are seeking quality professional development and training pathways. Yet "quality" is a subjective idea. Who is defining what quality ECE programs look like? How do we know what constitutes a quality professional development experience or teacher training program? You may have noticed that our Accreditation Committee has a new title: Quality Initiatives and Accreditation. As the new chair of this committee, I wanted to provide some perspective into this shift. Here at CAAEYC, we know that "quality" has many avenues and the way programs and educators engage with those pathways can look different.

For ECE settings it may mean using rating systems like the Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS), Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS) or State Rating Scales. For educators, there are a myriad of pathways to training and teacher education including coursework, degree programs, and apprenticeships. As we look to connect with members, and support them in their journey in quality initiatives, we felt it was important to honor and recognize that quality is not one size fits all. We hope that by adding "quality initiatives" to the name of the committee that we can help support even more educators and programs as they seek to evaluate and maintain quality standards in their settings.

For a long time, NAEYC Accreditation has been one of the most common measures for quality in the ECE field for both early learning settings and high education programs. The rigorous process allows for centers and institutions to show their dedication to high-quality practices through a portfolio that shows how the practices of the program connect to the NAEYC standards. Going through this process can feel like a complex journey, which NAEYC is here to help through with a multitude of supports and resources. While the name of the committee has shifted to include a more broad look at quality initiatives in the field, I look forward to working alongside committee members to create spaces and opportunities for community building among those who are going through the accreditation process.

For many, the start of the school year is a time to start fresh. Educators and programs take the time to reflect on their practices and make changes or recommit purposes they feel called to. This clean slate provides an opportunity to assess knowledge and set forth intentions for the new year. My hope for the coming year is that this committee can provide members support in the ways they need to best implement quality initiatives. There will be a member survey coming out that will help the committee better understand the needs of members and ways we can support. I look forward to connecting with members and getting some meaningful opportunities for connection up and running soon.

In the meantime, if you have an interest in joining the work the Quality Initiatives and Accreditation Committee is doing or just have general feedback or questions, please reach out to Committee Chair, Nicole Willard, at nwillard.edd@gmail.com.