On the fifth floor of the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s (NAEYC) headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C., Lynn Johnson and two other accreditation coordinators field calls and review accreditation materials to approve early childhood education programs as candidates for accreditation.
For 23 years Lynn has worked for the NAEYC Academy, the association’s accrediting division, motivated by a personal love of children and the opportunity to help high quality early childhood education programs earn accreditation.
“I want programs to get in touch with the Academy,” said Lynn. “That’s why I’m here: I want to clear everything up before your visit to ensure that you can achieve accreditation.”
That means answering a multitude of questions: from how long the process will take, to whether a certain activity aligns with any one of the NAEYC Academy’s over 400 criteria for accreditation.
In the past year, NAEYC started offering program directors 45-minute phone conversations with accreditation coordinators to help talk though any confusion during the accreditation process. Lynn also gets inquiries from parents and the general public.
“I just got a call the other day from an architect who focuses on child care facilities and design and he wanted to see how our accreditation requirements would impact a project he’s working on,” she said. (She pointed him to the Academy’s section of accreditation criteria that deals with physical environment.)
Most calls come from program directors, but when the phone stops ringing Lynn spends the bulk of her time reviewing self-assessment materials sent in by programs across the country, many from Knowledge Universe centers. With close to 900 nationally accredited centers, many through the NAEYC Academy, KU has the most accredited centers of any private provider in the United States.
The accreditation process entails four steps: enrollment/self-study, application/self-assessment, candidacy, and meeting the standards. By the time materials reach Lynn, programs are on their way to completing step three. Once materials pass through Lynn and her team, programs are officially candidates for accreditation.
“We look at the self-assessment sort of like a quiz,” said Lynn. “If you’ve passed the quiz, you’re ready for the test—and that’s the next step: your visit.”
Lynn and her team do not visit centers to conduct observations, but they give the final word that a program is ready for a visit. Essentially, the accreditation coordinators serve as the front line for awarding accreditation, Lynn says.
The work that Lynn and her coworkers do every day helps to ensure that children enrolled in childcare programs across the country are getting the highest level of education and care possible by offering resources and help to those applying for accreditation.
“I really do it for the children,” said Lynn. “I want to make sure they are learning the way that they should.”