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Divisions > Early Childhood Development > Credentialing Branch
Accreditation Project
MSDE Accreditation Project

Teacher showing young boy and girl how to use a computer

Public and non-public early childhood and school-age programs in Maryland have the choice of pursuing national, regional, or State accreditation. The MSDE Accreditation Project helps these programs to become accredited by:

·          Providing technical assistance and direct support services to programs so they can improve the quality of their services in order to meet national, regional, or State program standards.

·          Developing and publicizing Maryland State standards that define quality program services in administration, program operation, and home and community partnerships. Known as the Standards for Implementing Quality Early Childhood Programs and Standards for Implementing Quality School Age Child Care Programs, these criteria are applied to public school pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, center-based child care, and Head Start programs.

Program Accreditation: What, Why, and How

What is program accreditation?

Program accreditation is a process by which programs can significantly improve the quality of the services they provide.  In this process, a program voluntarily pursues self-study, program improvement, and external program review in order to achieve and publicly confirm that it meets national or state quality standards.

The accreditation process presents a clear, consistent strategy to improve the quality of care and education services. This strategy is “clear” because all participating programs implement a set process for program improvement, and it is “consistent” because programs operate with the same set of national or state standards.

What is the difference between child care licensing, school regulation, and program accreditation?


Head Start programs, child care centers, and family child care homes are required to be licensed or registered by the MSDE Division of Early Childhood Development, Office of Child Care.

Regulations for public school pre-kindergarten and kindergarten programs are issued by the State Board of Education and administered by the local boards of education. The licensing and regulatory requirements are minimum standards for operating programs.

Program accreditation implies that services must move beyond mere licensing and regulatory requirements. Program accreditation standards represent the highest quality and reflect research-based, best practices in early childhood education and school age child care.

Who benefits from program accreditation?

Children benefit from accreditation because their learning environments are exciting, positive, and growth-oriented.

·          Parents benefit from this process because their children are enrolled in stimulating learning environments that reflect the research and best practices of the field.

·          Programs benefit because their services are publicly recognized as being of the highest caliber. In addition, Maryland offers monetary incentives for programs that are accredited.

·          Local school systems benefit from this process because accredited programs increase the chances for young children to be better prepared to enter public school primary grades.

·          The state benefits from this approach because it improves the quality of life for families living in Maryland.

What are examples of high quality, accredited programs?

Programs that have been accredited are likely to exhibit the following characteristics:

·          The program has enough indoor and outdoor space so that children can work in large groups, small groups, and individually.

·          The facility is clean, sanitary, and well ventilated.

·          The staff-child ratio meets the state’s standards.

·          The program has a clear philosophy and research-based curriculum.

·          Teachers have clearly defined goals for individual children that guide curriculum planning.

·          Teachers provide a nurturing, safe, and cognitively stimulating environment.

·          Teachers share the assessment of children’s progress with families as part of formal conferences.

·          Family members are always welcome to observe their children or to participate in the program activities.

·          Program staff who work directly with children have formal educational backgrounds and solid work experience in early childhood education and/or school age child care.

·          On-going professional development provides continuing education for staff to help them keep abreast of the latest developments in the field.

·          Parents are part of the program’s evaluation.

How do programs receive accreditation?

A pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, child care, or Head Start program initiates the process by establishing an accreditation team. Teachers, administrators/directors, early childhood specialists, and parents who serve as team members rate the program using an evaluation instrument. This step is called "self-appraisal." The team shares the results of the self-appraisal with program staff. Areas of improvement are identified and steps to improve are developed.

During the next several months, program staff work to address areas of improvement. When a director or administrator feels that a program has made all the necessary improvements, the accreditation team confirms that sufficient improvements have been made. A trained validator, identified by MSDE or a national organization, visits the program and determines whether the program has met national or state standards. This step is called "validation."

The final decision for program accreditation is made by a national or state accreditation decision-making committee. The entire process takes approximately 2 years to complete.

The Accreditation Process


Family Child Care Accreditation


The National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC) sponsors the only nationally recognized accreditation system designed specifically for family child care providers. Visit the NAFCC website for more information on accreditation for family child care: http://nafcc.org/


While MSDE does not provide state accreditation for family child care, there is Accreditation Support funding available for family child care providers to help pay the cost of the accreditation application fee. The funding may be applied to the initial or renewal application fees. Click here for more information.


MSDE Accreditation for Center-Based Programs and Public School Pre-Kindergarten/Kindergarten


The Maryland State Department of Education, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education (CTE), has launched the Online Maryland Accreditation Portal (O-MAP). This new online service is now available for programs seeking Maryland Program accreditation/validation, and for those seeking re-accreditation/re-validation. To log-on and create an account, go to https://excels.marylandexcels.org/account/login.

This system was designed to allow for ease of use by programs participating in both the Maryland Program Accreditation process, as well as Maryland EXCELS. To get started in the new system, download the helpful Online Maryland Accreditation Process Guide.

The Division of Early Childhood Development is committed to providing high quality services across all program types – center-based child care, Head Start, Pre-kindergarten and Kindergarten. We appreciate your support of initiatives to expand and enhance Maryland Program Accreditation.



Accreditation Documents


5th Edition Center-based Child Care & Head Start Instrument for Self-Appraisal and Validation – Participating child care/Head Start staff and agency administrators use this document to rate the quality of center-based child care and Head Start programs.

5th Edition Prekindergarten and Kindergarten Instrument for Self-Appraisal and Validation – Participating teachers and other members of the local school systems use this document to rate the quality of individual public prekindergarten and kindergarten programs.


School Age Child Care Instrument for Self-Appraisal and Validation – Participating child care staff and administrators use this document to rate the quality of school age child care programs.


What accreditation programs are recognized by the MSDE Accreditation Project?

The Accreditation Project recognizes the following national and regional accreditation programs (click on the following links to visit the program websites):


·          Advance Education, Inc. (AdvED)

·          American Montessori Internationale/USA (AMI/USA)

·          American Montessori Society (AMS)

·          Association of Independent Maryland Schools (AIMS)

·          Association of Waldorf Schools of North America (AWSNA)

·          Council on Accreditation - After-School Accreditation (COA/ASA)

·          Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS)

·          National Accreditation Commission (NAC)

·          National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)

·          National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC)

·          National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA)


Have questions or need more information about the Accreditation Project or other Credentialing Branch programs?  Contact us:
by phone:  410-767-7852

by e-mail:  credentialocc.msde@maryland.gov

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