BRATTLEBORO — Early Education Services (EES) in Brattleboro and Westminster has earned renewed accreditation for its Canal Street and Westminster Head Start programs from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the world's largest organization working on behalf of young children.
“We're proud to have earned this mark of quality from NAEYC once again and to be recognized for our commitment to reaching the highest professional standards,” said EES Executive Director Deb Gass.
Early Education Services serves as the region's Head Start, Early Head Start, and Parent Child Center. Services include Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms, Early Head Start Home Visiting, the Welcome Baby program, playgroups, the Dedicated Dads program, Teddy Bear Teas, a monthly dental clinic for children up to 3 months old, information and referral services to connect families with area resources, support groups, and parent education classes.
NAEYC accreditation is a “rigorous and transformative” quality-improvement system that uses a set of 10 research-based standards to collaborate with early education programs to recognize and drive quality improvement in high-quality early learning environments.
EES is funded to serve 184 Head Start and Early Head Start children ages birth to age 5. The organization is primarily funded through the federal office of Head Start and is also a designated Vermont parent child center and thus receives state money through the Child Development Division for many of the above programs.
EES began here more than 30 years ago as part of the Windham Southeast School District.
In the NAEYC accreditation process, EES went through an extensive self-study and quality-improvement process followed by an on-site visit by NAEYC assessors, who verified and ensured the program met each of the 10 program standards, and hundreds of corresponding individual criteria.
NAEYC-accredited programs are always prepared for unannounced quality assurance visits during their accreditation term, which lasts for five years.
In the 30 years since NAEYC accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized sign of high-quality early childhood education. More than 6,000 programs in the United States are currently accredited by NAEYC. Fewer than 10 percent of all childcare centers, preschools, and kindergartens nationally achieve this recognition.
“It's an arduous process and a lot of centers opt out because it's so complicated and regulated,” said Gass. “They can't invest the effort or time ['¦] or they feel they're not worthy of it.”
“It's like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” she said.
Receiving NAEYC accreditation can relate to the Vermont Step Ahead Recognition System (STARS) program, a quality-rating system created to help parents navigate child care choices. Those programs that are STARS-rated can lead to higher reimbursement rates from the state.
“NAEYC accredited programs have committed to a process that takes time, energy and dedication to complete,” said Alissa Mwenelupembe, senior director of Early Learning Program Accreditation. “Early Education Services has demonstrated their commitment to young children and their families.”
NAEYC is a professional membership organization that works” to promote high-quality early learning for all young children” from birth through age 8 by connecting early childhood practice, policy, and research. The Association includes nearly 60,000 individual members of the early childhood community and 52 affiliates.