Greenfield Community College’s Early Childhood Education Associates Degree Program has received national recognition for the quality of its teacher education program by being accredited by NAEYC, the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
NAEYC, the longest standing professional organization for early childhood educators, has been a major force in professionalizing the field. NAEYC has long accredited programs that directly serve children, but only began accrediting Associates Degree teacher education Programs in 2006. Sharon Roth, Chair of GCC’s Education Department, said, “NAEYC’s accreditation confirms what we already knew – that our Early Childhood Education Associates Degree graduates provide quality care for our community’s children. NAEYC accreditation is known worldwide as the ‘Gold Standard’ for professional qualifications in our field. The NAEYC standards are based on extensive research on what it takes to prepare early childhood educators.”
To apply for accreditation, GCC’s Education Department and many other GCC staff worked in an intentionally collaborative process for three years, starting with an in-depth self-study. Kate Finnegan, Professor of Education, said, “We knew it would be time consuming, labor intensive, and costly to apply for accreditation, but we know it is worth it. Accreditation is voluntary, but it means GCC’s graduates can list graduating from an accredited program on their resumes and it makes GCC more competitive for state and federal grants. It will become the marker for worthiness for funding for innovative projects.”
The accreditation process involved documenting how the College’s Early Childhood Education Associates Degree Program meets NAEYC’s five standards and which course and assignments relate to each standard. Education faculty will now collect data on student assignments to show that students are being assessed on the five standards. Part of the work of the accreditation process has been developing methods for collecting this data. The faculty have found the accreditation process, while a lot of work, has helped them stretch and grow in their field.
GCC’s Early Childhood Education Associates Degree Program is now accredited for two years, with a written report required each year. After two years the program will be eligible for a five-year accreditation. GCC is the ninth two-year college in Massachusetts and the 61st in the nation to achieve NAEYC Associates Degree accreditation. Kate Finnegan said, “NAEYC is now focusing on accrediting two- and four- year teacher education programs. Previous licensing of early education centers has primarily focused on the facility. Now the focus on the quality of the programming and teacher education. There’s movement on a national level toward greater awareness of the importance of high quality programming for very young children. Those who work with very young children have an enormous responsibility to care for and teach our youngest citizens.”