Thanks to an emphasis on early childhood education, there are many preschools throughout the United States. No matter what city or town you're in, there are probably at least several preschools serving the area. For children, this is great news, as kids have excellent access to pre-kindergarten education.
For people who run a preschool, however, it can be difficult to distinguish their program from all of the other ones nearby. If you operate a preschool, one way you can set it apart is by seeking accreditation.
All preschools are required to be licensed
If you run a preschool, then you're already familiar with licensure. Licensure is both state-specific and mandatory.
In every state, daycare and preschool programs are required to be licensed. Specific requirements vary from state to state, but licensure generally ensures that a program is safe for the children enrolled.
Accreditation is voluntary
Accreditation, in contrast to licensure, is voluntary. Because it's not required, accreditation is far less common among preschools than licensure. According to Great Schools, only ten percent of preschools are accredited. Thus, it's a great way to distinguish your program from others that are nearby.
There is one, main body that accredits preschools in all 50 states. It's the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The NAEYC includes some areas that states also look at during licensing, such as Health, Physical Environment and Assessment of Child Progress. Not all states require preschools to assess students' progress, but some do.
The NAEYC also examines other areas, though. They ensure that member programs meet their standards in each of the following areas:
- Community Relationships
- Leadership and Management
These are all things that parents who are enrolling children in preschool are concerned about, but they don't directly affect children's safety or health.
Accredited preschools choose their curriculum
For religious preschools, the one area of concern may be an accrediting body's curriculum requirements. The NAEYC, however, doesn't require member schools to teach a specific curriculum. While schools must use a quality curriculum, they're free to select any good curriculum that they'd like.
If you run a religious accredited preschool, you'll still be free to select, write or modify any curriculum you'd like, as long as it meets the quality standards that are required for accreditation. Whether your school is a Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist or other religious program, you're still welcome to select a program that agrees with your faith's teachings.
Advertise that your preschool is accredited
If the purpose of seeking accreditation is to set your program apart from other ones, you should advertise that your preschool is accredited once it receives final approval. You can make sure parents are aware of the accreditation and its significance by:
- asking for brochures from your accrediting body that explain the importance of accreditation
- talking to parents of prospective students about your preschool's accreditation status
- mentioning the accreditation on your preschool's website, newsletters and other communications
- including the accreditation in any advertising campaigns you run
If you're struggling to show parents how your preschool program is different from other ones nearby, begin the process of becoming accredited. With only 10 percent of preschools accredited, there likely aren't too many in your area. This is a great way to make your program stand out from the rest. Even if you oversee a religiously affiliated preschool program, you don't have to give up your program's distinctives to be accredited. Of course, once your preschool is accredited, you need to communicate that to parents if you want your program to be recognized as a select religious preschool in your town or city.