Directors and the nonpursuit of NAEYC accreditation: Varying definitions of quality
Galuski, Tracy Lyn
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Across the country, licensed child care centers have the option of going above and beyond state requirements by working towards accreditation through the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs, a division of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). These accreditation standards are based on the current understanding of developmentally appropriate practices in early childhood programs. Although accreditation is widely recognized as the top indicator of quality, many directors choose not to pursue it. Other directors begin the process but quit, and there are many directors who complete the process only to give up after being awarded a deferral. This study is designed to address three basic questions among those program directors: (1) how do they define developmentally appropriate practices, (2) what do they know and believe regarding accreditation, and (3) what are their specific experiences with accreditation and how do these experiences relate to personal beliefs regarding quality. Eight program directors were interviewed and data were analyzed using the constant comparative approach. Triangulation was achieved through regular member checks. The data suggest that directors choose not to pursue the process because they believe they are doing what is best for the children in their care. In general, their "anti-accreditation" stance revolves around a few major points. First of all, directors have different definitions of quality, complicated by the fluid nature of developmentally appropriate practice, and they do not believe that accreditation is supportive of their individual definitions. Additionally, structure is important to them and they are concerned that accreditation will force them to provide a "free-for-all" atmosphere where learning is limited. Lastly, there are several minor underlying factors that prevent directors from pursuing the process: the desire to promote kindergarten readiness; parental attitudes; the cost of the process; the fear that the process will cause stress to their staff; and lack of information about the process. This study discusses implications for practice including suggestions for NAEYC and professionals that support the accreditation process.