Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Dance of Accreditation


This year we are going through NAEYC re-accreditation.  At the beginning of this process I looked on it as a way to reflect on my teaching and my classroom.  I had hoped that I would be able to find things that I should improve upon or at least think about.  Now, however, I’m just tired.

The accreditation process is geared toward full-time programs.  I work in a part-time program.  I have some children who I only see for four and a half hours each week.  Other teachers I know who are also being re-accredited work in places where planning time is built into their days, often for as many as two hours each day (I know, some of you barely have time to pee all day while others get nap time to themselves).  These people are in programs where the kids are with them for 40 hours or more each week.  While it’s a bit of a time pinch, they are able to spend a little time each day working on their classroom portfolios.  The teachers in my school only get paid time for set-up and clean-up each day.  We typically do planning on our own time and are often there long beyond what we are paid for.  To add accreditation on top of that is challenging, to say the least.  I chose my work because I’m available to volunteer at my own children’s school most afternoons, which means I’m not always available to spend all afternoon working on my classroom portfolio.  While we are getting paid a little extra because of the time burden, the fact of the matter is that I only have so much time to give.  You can pay me a million bucks, but I’m not going to stop seeing my family for this.

With the process being geared toward full-time programs, some of the criteria will be ones we can’t or won’t meet.  For example, we don’t use TVs or computers in our classrooms.  We don’t feel it’s developmentally appropriate, and we know that most of the kids get too much screen time at home anyway.  The criterion in question involves the appropriate use of “technology,” which could mean just about anything.  I’m going to write a paragraph on why we use physical objects rather than screens, but it seems like I shouldn’t have to prove something that should, in our minds, be standard practice.  We also don’t brush teeth.  The kids come to us after breakfast and the parents pick them up shortly after snack.  If I had to brush the teeth of each child even once a day, I’d have trouble doing all the other things I should be doing.  Heck, diaper changes sometimes eat up 20 minutes of my morning.  That’s a lot of time when the kids aren’t there that long.

Another small problem is that the classroom portfolio thing is new to the process.  We have an official IAEYC person who comes to advise us, but she doesn’t have all the answers and sometimes contradicts herself.  I went to a session at the national conference where I got to see an accepted portfolio and talk to teachers and an NAEYC person about the whole thing.  Some of the stuff we’re being told at the local level isn’t consistent with the national level perspective.  So which do we follow? 

The criteria themselves are a little strange.  Some of them are almost word-for-word copies of others, while some of them contain multiple requirements in one criterion.  So, I have to write up a separate thing for all of them, even if they’re almost the same.  I tried referencing similar ones to each other, but it got hard for my co-teachers and I to figure out which ones had been done already.  Organizationally confusing, you might say.

We are spending a ton of money on printing pictures (we’re printing wallet-size ones on regular paper, by the way, and using black-and-white rather than color when the picture is clear enough), copy paper, plastic sleeves, binders, and a host of other things.  I only use a picture when it seems to demonstrate the criterion in question.  It still seems wasteful.  I wanted to do mine all electronically, but I was told that I’d have to be able to provide a private place for the accreditors to view my portfolio.  We only have two computers for the whole school and they’re in the office, so that was a no-go.  Putting it on a CD wasn’t good enough since they assessors may or may not have a computer that could read it.

What’s also stressing is that all this time I’m spending is time that isn’t spent on the children.  I don’t have time to do extra things to make my planning or my classroom top-notch.  So, I’m documenting something that I’m not proud of.  It’s also changed how I view the children.  While I still plan for their interests, I’m also planning to get a good photo that demonstrates some criterion.  It’s pathetic.  Now I think, “Oh, if I do this activity so-and-so will totally get into it, which means I’ll have proof of such-and-such criteria.”  It’s aiming for the product rather than the process, which is against everything I believe in for early childhood education.  Of course, it’s me I’m talking about rather than the kids, so maybe I’m just feeling put out.  Sorry for the sniping.

Now, you may think that I think accreditation is a waste of time.  But the ideal is still good.  It’s good to know that an accredited program is at a certain level.  It’s important to know that the program to which you’re sending your child isn’t going to hurt them and that they are getting benefits from being there.  What I object to is the massive amount of wasted human resources.  Perhaps it’s just because of our status as a part-time program housed in a church where we don’t have control over the physical facilities (though they are great facilities, I must admit).  Maybe there needs to be a separate procedures for programs like ours.  I know that several programs similar to ours have decided not to get re-accredited this time.  When I see how great they are compared to some full-time programs that ARE accredited, I’m sad.  Some of those full-time programs aren’t that great, but they had the resources to get through the process.

NAEYC, are you listening?


  1. I'm so glad we don't have to go through this. It sounds both arduous and a bit dubious. Like you, we're a half-day program with some kids I'm only seeing 4.5 hrs. a week and I like it that way so I have time for my family (although if you paid me a million dollars, I might reconsider my priorities).

    I've been combing through your archives this morning. Great stuff. Can't wait to try some of it. For instance, I was planning on a little gak next week (I usually make enough to fill our huge sensory table) and I've never tried using it to teach "gentle touch." I could use that this year! Thanks.

  2. If you fill your sensory table with gak, what do the children end up doing with it? Do you put any other tools with it? And just how much glue does that take, anyway? Personally, I like hanging it from a berry basket so the kids can cut it with scissors as it drips to a table. It's hard to do that in my current room. I saw a setup once with berry baskets hung from a rack above a sensory table and I may just try that one of these days.

    Thanks for stopping by. I like your blog, too. Everyone check it out!

  3. I like putting jelly and cake molds in with the gak. It rewards patience in that they have to leave it alone if it's going to take shape. We also use scissors. Typically I'll put a couple step stools by the sensory table so they can get up high to make their gak balls bounce. I like using all kinds of things made of meshes of various sizes as well.

    It takes at least a couple gallons of glue to make it.

  4. Hi Patti,
    NAEYC received your Tweet and have carefully considered the concerns you have addressed on this blog. We want you to know that NAEYC is listening, and the Accreditation Program Support department is ready to provide you with support and resources. Here are a few notes regarding issues you brought up in your blog.

    It is not necessary to have a separate piece of evidence for each criterion addressed in your classroom portfolio. Rather, you can utilize placeholders to use a single piece of evidence to meet multiple criteria. This helps you to save printing costs and time! Read more in our E-Update article about Placeholders from May 2009 at You can also sign up to receive E-Updates at

    You expressed concerns with criteria related to technology. Guidance for the criteria included in topic area 2.H - Curriculum Content Area for Cognitive Development: Technology includes the following:

    "Technology is defined broadly to include knowledge and use of tools and machines. Included are computers, video, cameras and other forms of high technology, as well as simple tools like gears, wheels, and levers. Technology can be used to by teachers or children, and includes use of technology in dramatic play (e.g., disconnected computer keyboard).

    The intent of this criterion is that these types of media be selected with intentionality and that they are used to expand, enrich, and implement the overall goals and curriculum. Other examples of media include: DVDs, digital music files, CDs, etc."

    There is also guidance on criterion 5.A.16, the tooth brushing criterion about which you expressed concerns. Since your classroom only serves one snack, this criterion does not apply and tooth brushing is not required. Note the following resources for criterion 5.A.16

    Criterion 5.A.16
    At least once daily in a program where children older than one year receive two or more meals, teaching staff provide an opportunity for tooth brushing and gum cleaning to remove food and plaque. (The use of toothpaste is not required.)

    Guidance for Criterion 5.A.16
    The program defines whether the food it serves constitutes a meal or snack.

    Criteria and related guidance can be accessed in the TORCH Criteria Search. Anyone can set up a free, personal TORCH Account to access the TORCH Criteria Search and other helpful resources. Visit for more information.

    You also mentioned that you are having difficulty with the criteria and feel that they are repetitive and it can be difficult to document how you meet them. NAEYC has heard your feedback and is currently engaging in a criteria revision process. NAEYC is soliciting feedback from members of the early childhood field, like yourself, to complete this project. Read more about criteria revisions at There is also an extremely informative article that was published in Young Children that specifically focuses on the efforts NAEYC is making to streamline the accreditation criteria in an effort to ensure the accreditation process is rigorous, but not burdensome. You can access this Young Children article at

    (Continued on following comment)

  5. (continued from previous comment)
    NAEYC is available to discuss these resources and provide you with personalized support when you experience difficulties. We want programs to succeed in earning NAEYC Accreditation and improving the quality of care and education provided to young children. I urge you, and any other individuals engaging in the NAEYC Accreditation process, to contact the Accreditation Program Support Information Center via phone at 1.800.424.2460, option 3, option 1 or via email at You can also contact us via our website at Thank you for the important work you do for young children, and I look forward to hearing from you soon!


    Gina Charnitski
    Program Support Manager at NAEYC

  6. Patti--
    I feel for you! The NAEYC accreditation process is very tough! Years ago, I worked in a part time program and we looked into it then, it was too arduous a process for the program to go through with. I know the goal is to commit to excellence in early childhood education, but you just want to say "Come on, people, REALLY??!!"
    Just do the best you can do--that all we can ask of ourselves--and keep plugging along! Good luck! :)

  7. Thanks! Look for a post on the results very soon!