South Piedmont Community College’s Early Childhood Education program has earned national accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). Program director Sharon Little was ecstatic after SPCC president Stan Sidor made the announcement during convocation on Aug. 6. She had not expected to hear anything until late August.
“We are beside ourselves,” Little said. “It has been a process.”
The accreditation, which came with no conditions, is good for seven years. SPCC is one of only 16 community colleges in North Carolina to currently hold NAEYC accreditation. “For our program, it means we are meeting national standards as far as teacher preparation for early childhood professionals,” Little said. “These are the highest standards that any early childhood program could meet.
“Having accreditation is going to do several things,” she added. “It opens up opportunities for us to receive more grant funding in other areas that will enhance our program. Now that word is getting out nationally about accreditation … I think students are going to be looking for programs that are accredited. This is just a great opportunity for South Piedmont to be in the forefront of this. It’s just been wonderful.”
As a result of the accreditation, Little has also been selected to be a peer reviewer for NAEYC. After training, next year she will start serving on teams that evaluate other programs around the country. “That’s a privilege,” she said. “It’s just a great thing for us.”
The process to gain accreditation was long and difficult. It began in 2008 when SPCC submitted an application and the school was approved to begin a self study. “We began data collection, with programmatic changes that enhanced the program in the way we started teaching in alignment with the standards,” Little said, noting that more hands-on learning was added for the students. “Our programs became a little more rigorous because they had to meet the national standards.”
The self-study report was completed in September 2011 and within two weeks, Little learned that it had been accepted with no errors. A NAEYC team made a three-day on-site visit in March. “They visited our facilities that we have practicums with, reviewed data collection,” Little said. “That’s a big part because you have to prove how students are learning, how that all comes together. They interviewed students, advisory committee members, administration, about how the Early Childhood program works with the libraries, how we work with admissions, how all that works together.”
Based on all that information, the team made its report. During an exit interview, team members told Little and her staff that there were no concerns, just some recommendations.
Little, faculty member Carilyn Raymond, Smart Start Program Director Trinisha Dean and Dean of Applied Science and Technology Maria Lander did much of the work on the self study and preparation for the site visit. Because of the number of other departments involved in the site visit, however, Little said that “this is, to me, everybody’s accreditation because everybody worked so well with us to provide what we needed. … I’d like to thank everybody at the college who helped us prepare.”