UMKC Early Childhood Center Earns Accreditation

High scores demonstrate excellence in programming

The Edgar L. & Rheta A. Berkley Child and Family Development Center concluded a two-year accreditation process last week with the best news anyone could have hoped for.

Not only did the early childhood center receive the highly coveted accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the center, which serves as a learning laboratory for the University of Missouri–Kansas City’s School of Education’s early childhood students, came out of the process with almost perfect marks.

“It was most exciting how high our scores were,” said Polly Prendergast, Berkley director.

Scores in all but one of the 10 areas considered for the accreditation met criteria by 100 percent or more. The only one that did not – physical environment – received a 96 percent score.

To earn NAEYC accreditation, which lasts for five years, Berkley undertook an extensive self-study process, measuring the program and its services against the 10 NAEYC early childhood program standards and more than 400 related criteria. The accreditation process included a two-day on-site visit by NAEYC assessors and reams of documentation.

Prendergast said preparing for the NAEYC application caused her staff to look closely at itself and, in some cases, make some changes. Those included remodeling the center’s infant area to allow for improved classroom monitoring by teachers, and doubling the size of its policies and procedures manual to 100 pages.

During the accreditation process, the center put a microscope on virtually every piece of the school’s curriculum, environment, relationships, teaching practices, credentials and leadership.

“We took the process very seriously,” Prendergast said. “Over the past year and a half, we focused on taking each indicator to a deep level of understanding, examining each area of our program and making changes where needed and or better documenting practices that were already in place.  One area we particularly focused on was highlighting our program’s commitment to the continuity of care, a key component to quality care and early learning.”

According to UMKC School of Education Associate Dean and Associate Professor, LaVerne Berkel, Ph.D., “NAEYC Accreditation lets families in our community know that children in our high-quality program have teachers who create engaging classrooms, enhance relationships with their parents and families, and develop rich experiences for their students.”

In the 25 years since NAEYC Accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized sign of high-quality early childhood education. Only about 8 percent of all preschools and other early childhood programs – nearly 7,000 programs – are currently accredited by NAEYC.

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