MSDE Accreditation Project
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
MSDE Accreditation for Center-Based Programs and Public PreK/K
The Maryland State Department of Education, in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University Center for Technology in Education (CTE), has launched the Online Accreditation Registration System (OARS). This new online service is now available for programs seeking MSDE accreditation or validation, and for those seeking re-accreditation or re-validation. To log-on and create an account, go to http://oars.earlylearningcompass.org/.
You will use this Online Accreditation Registration System to:
· Download the materials needed to complete the process;
· Formally begin the Accreditation/Validation Process
· Request a Program Improvement Visit
· Request a Validation Visit
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 the MSDE Accreditation Project.