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The University of Louisiana at Lafayette's Child Development Center is being recognized for its part in the national movement to improve early childhood education. That's according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the largest organization working on behalf of young children.
The association recently accredited the Child Development Center - a prestigious accomplishment in the field of early childhood education. The accreditation period is for five years.
“ By earning accreditation, UL Lafayette's Child Development Center has become a leader in a national effort to raise the quality of early childhood education and to help give all children a better start,” said Dr. Mark Ginsberg, NAEYC executive director.
The Center is one of only 56 facilities in Louisiana with this accreditation. Most of these facilities are head-starts, franchises and military-affiliated programs, according to Serena Mandella, director of UL Lafayette's Child Development Center. Nationally, 11,353 child care centers, head-starts and kindergartens are accredited.
“ NAEYC Accreditation lets families in our community know that children in our program are getting the best care and early learning experiences provided by a committed administration and staff,” said Mandella. “Together with our families, we strive to make a difference in the lives of young children.”
The NAEYC outlines more than 400 criteria to prove a program meets its standards. These programs must achieve 80 percent of these criteria. These include promoting positive relationships for all children and adults to encourage each child's sense of individual worth and implementing a curriculum that fosters cognitive, emotional, language, physical and social development.
Other standards include promoting the nutrition and health of children, employing a teaching staff that has educational qualifications and establishing collaborative relationships with each child's family.
To earn NAEYC's accreditation, a program must conduct a self-study to determine how well it meets the standards. After necessary improvements are made, the program is observed by an independent, professional validator and then reviewed by a national panel.
Once being accredited, programs have to submit reports to the NAEYC each year and implement new verification procedures including unannounced visits.
“ You have to be on target on all levels to get accredited,” said Mandella. “It's very black and white. Either you meet the criteria or you don't.”
The Center's accreditation process was a huge collaborative effort on the part of students, staff, parents and the community, said Mandella. “We had to be on target on all levels to reach this highly-regarded goal. It's not just a single checklist that you have to go through.”
She credits this accreditation on strong relationships with families served at the Center along with a very selfless staff. “Our staff really took on a lot in this process. They had to implement new programs and really buy into this accreditation process. They are truly an unselfish staff. This was no easy feat for them.
“ And, by gaining this accreditation, it just proves our commitment to our students and families,” said Mandella. “We are committed to providing a high-quality early childhood experience to the families and children we serve.”
The Center serves approximately 120 families and includes a staff of 17 with an additional 12 to 15 student aides from the university. Combined, staff members have 287 years of experience in early childhood education.