The House of Representatives Child Care Center has been awarded the highest level of accreditation under a new, tougher system established by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
More than 11,000 preschool programs are accredited by NAEYC, about 8 percent of all programs in the country. But the House day care center is among the first, especially among federal facilities, to earn accreditation under the new system, according to officials.
“This is a huge accomplishment for any child care center,” said Kim Mahaney, an attorney for the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer who took part in the accreditation process. “And the fact that we were one of the first programs in the country to become reaccredited under the new system further reinforces the standard of excellence we have always provided.”
Created in 1985, the NAEYC system sets professional standards for early childhood education; to earn accreditation, programs must meet 10 NAEYC program standards.
But NAEYC revised its accreditation process this year, requiring programs to meet about 400 specific criteria, compared with about 100 in previous years, Mahaney said.
The House center also had to go through an array of other processes, including a self-study and an in-site, unannounced visit from NAEYC officials, who observed the center to ensure it met the program standards.
Day care officials, including Directors Monica Barnabae and Paige Beatty, spent nearly a year preparing for the accreditation, Mahaney said.
“It was a huge change in how they did business, and a lot of places didn’t think they would get reaccredited,” Mahaney said. “We didn’t really know what would happen.”
Undertaking the accreditation process — and doing so well — lets others in the field and potential clients know you rank among the best, said Kathy Wyszynski, an adviser to the CAO.
“There are centers who chose not to do this,” Wyszynski said. “You don’t have to do this, it’s not a requirement. … But we’re very proud.”
Accreditation lasts five years, but NAEYC could pop in for an unannounced visit throughout that time, Wyszynski added.
NAEYC requires programs to meet an array of specific criteria ranging from topics such as curriculum to physical environment to health.
The facility met every set of criteria. Broken down into various categories, the center met no less than 80 percent of more specific standards and earned 100 percent marks in the categories of relationships, assessment of child progress, health, and leadership and management.
“We’re very happy about it,” Mahaney said. “It’s huge.”
The lower scores came in the categories of curriculum (81 percent), teachers (80 percent) and community relationships (80 percent).
Child center officials consistently are seeking ways for improvement, Mahaney said.
“They’re constantly, regardless of NAEYC, striving to improve those scores,” Mahaney said of the center’s staff. “We are always trying to make those better. I think that’s, again, why the center is so excellent.”
The Senate Employees Child Care Center also is accredited by NAEYC. Senate child care officials also went through the recent accredidation process but are still awaiting those results.
The Senate center, originally accredited in 1989, is considered the first federal center to earn NAEYC recognition.
One thing not included in the accreditation process that is perhaps the toughest problem at the center is its waiting list — staffers often wait months to get their child enrolled.
When Dan Beard became CAO earlier this year, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) tasked him with studying how officials could potentially cut the waiting time.
Beard commissioned a study on the center, which recently was completed. Officials are waiting to publicly release the results of that study until they are ready to make recommendations on what, if anything, should be changed with the wait-list process.
“We’re looking at the report, reviewing it, analyzing it,” Wyszynski said, adding that it is not clear when that review process will be finished.