NAEYC Accreditation: Then and Now

In 1985, child care centers, preschools, and kindergartens wanted to provide the best education and care for young children, but there was no national system to measure the quality of early childhood programs.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) changed all that. It established a voluntary, national accreditation system that outlined stringent criteria and gave programs tools to build and maintain high-quality care and education. 

A lot has changed in early childhood education and so has NAEYC Accreditation. Highly professional programs are demanding highly professional service and value from accreditation. Today's accreditation system is more reliable, more credible, and more accountable than ever before. Check out some of the improvements:

Accreditation Process 

Then - Programs submitted accreditation applications without prior notice to NAEYC, causing delays in program reviews and on-site visits.  There was no time limit for programs completing the accreditation process.

Now - NAEYC provides improved service to programs through a four-step process


Then - The terms "standards" and "criteria" were used interchangeably to define characteristics of a high-quality program. 

Now - Standards define the characteristics of a high-quality program.  Criteria demonstrate a program is achieving NAEYC standards.  Programs must meet each of the 10 NAEYC program standards by demonstrating satisfactory performance on 80% of the criteria within each standard. 

Program Evaluation

Then - Programs were evaluated by volunteer validators.

Now - Programs are evaluated by highly-trained professionals.


Then - Programs submitted annual reports only after the first year.

Now - Programs submit annual reports and self-administered program audits every year.

Length of Accreditation

Then - Accreditation lasts three years.

Now - Accreditation lasts five years.

Site Visits

Then - Verification visits were conducted when programs experienced change.

Now - In addition to verification visits, unnanounced visits ensure programs are meeting NAEYC standards.

The above comparison is provided courtesy of Hawaii NAEYC