Here are a set of 10 standards for early childhood programs that can help families make the right choice when they are looking for a child care center or preschool. The standards and criteria are also the foundation of the NAEYC Accreditation system for early childhood programs. Based on research on the development and education of young children, the standards were created with input from experts and educators from around the country. The standards define what NAEYC—the world’s largest organization of early childhood professionals—believes all early childhood programs should provide. Review this guide to help identify programs that meet NAEYC standards for high-quality programs

Standard 1: Relationships

The program promotes positive relationships among all children and adults. It encourages each child’s sense of individual worth and belonging as part of a community and fosters each child’s ability to contribute as a responsible community member. Warm, sensitive, and responsive relationships help children feel secure. The safe and secure environments built by positive relationships help children thrive physically, benefit from learning experiences, and cooperate and get along with others.

Standard 2: Curriculum

The program implements a curriculum that is consistent with its goals for children and promotes learning and development in each of the following areas: social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive. A well-planned written curriculum provides a guide for teachers and administrators. It helps them work together and balance different activities and approaches to maximize children’s learning and development. The curriculum includes goals for the content that children are learning, planned activities linked to these goals, daily schedules and routines, and materials to be used.

Standard 3: Teaching

The program uses developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate and effective teaching approaches that enhance each child’s learning and development in the context of the curriculum goals. Children have different learning styles, needs, capacities, interests, and backgrounds. By recognizing these differences and using instructional approaches that are appropriate for each child, teachers and staff help all children learn.

Standard 4: Assessment of Child Progress

The program is informed by ongoing systematic, formal, and informal assessment approaches to provide information on children’s learning and development. These assessments occur within the context of reciprocal communications with families and with sensitivity to the cultural contexts in which children develop. Assessment results benefit children by informing sound decisions, teaching, and program improvement. Assessments help teachers plan appropriately challenging curriculum and tailor instruction that responds to each child’s strengths and needs. Assessments can also help teachers identify children with disabilities and ensuring that they receive needed services.

Standard 5: Health

The program promotes the nutrition and health of children and protects children and staff from illness and injury. Children must be healthy and safe in order to learn and grow. Programs must be healthy and safe to support children’s healthy development.

Standard 6: Teachers

The program employs and supports a teaching staff with the educational qualifications, knowledge, and professional commitment necessary to promote children’s learning and development and to support families’ diverse needs and interests. Teachers who have specific preparation, knowledge, and skills in child development and early childhood education are more likely to provide positive interactions, richer language experiences, and quality learning environments.

Standard 7: Families

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. To support children’s optimal learning and development, programs need to establish relationships with families based on mutual trust and respect, involve families in their children’s educational growth, and encourage families to fully participate in the program.

Standard 8: Community Relationships

The program establishes relationships with and uses the resources of the children’s communities to support the achievement of program goals. Relationships with agencies and institutions in the community can help a program achieve its goals and connect families with resources that support children’s healthy development and learning.

Standard 9: Physical Environment

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. An organized, properly equipped, and well-maintained program environment facilitates the learning, comfort, health, and safety of the children and adults who use the program.

Standard 10: Leadership and Management

The program effectively implements policies, procedures, and systems that support stable staff and strong personnel, and fiscal, and program management so all children, families, and staff have high-quality experiences. Effective management and operations, knowledgeable leaders, and sensible policies and procedures are essential to building a quality program and maintaining the quality over time.

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