Educators and staff at Central Massachusetts early education and care programs come to work every day on a mission to:
- Create learning environments that enhance learning skills, school readiness, and social-emotional development.
- Support their community by enabling parents and caregivers to work.
- Never stop improving on numbers 1 and 2.
How are they doing?
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), quite well. Currently, eleven Worcester childcare programs are NAEYC-accredited, in addition to many others across Central Massachusetts.
Four local programs, the YWCA of Central Massachusetts, Rainbow Child Development Center, Webster Square Day Care, and Worcester Comprehensive Education and Care, were recently re-accredited.
They shared their stories with Edward Street.
Teamwork shows through as staff and educators take stock
“It’s a time for self-reflection and quality improvement,” Diane Belliveau, Director of Children’s Services at the YWCA of Central Massachusetts, said of the re-accreditation process.
“Our teachers were very involved in documenting and presenting how their classrooms and curriculum met NAEYC’s criteria,” added Satya Rameshwar, Preschool Coordinator at Rainbow Child Development Center. “They saw how aligned they were with NAEYC’s standards and how much they contributed to student growth.
“In a field where teachers are sometimes underappreciated, it was very gratifying to document their successes.”
Said Rainbow Childhood Development Center early educator Lisa Bowen, “We all worked together as a team, and it provided a way to acknowledge the hard work educators do for the children in our care.”
Still, applying for re-accreditation is challenging and time-consuming, especially when you consider the daily needs of running a childcare program amidst ongoing staffing issues in early childhood.
“We went through the process with inexperienced teachers that were new to the field and had never been through accreditation,” said Bellieveau.
NAEYC: the gold standard of childcare accreditation
The largest accreditation organization for childcare programs nationwide, NAEYC holds programs to ten quality standards, from curriculum and progress assessments to program management and community relationships.
And they don’t hold back.
Its Curriculum Standard, for example, demands “a curriculum that is consistent with its goals for children and promotes learning and development in each of the following areas: social, emotional, physical, language, and cognitive.”
NAEYC’s high standards show families that these programs can be trusted while helping keep the programs on target.
“It validated many of our philosophies and best practices and pushed us to apply them to our program in ways that are more creative,” said Rameshwar.
What’s next? A focus on social-emotional support and a hope for fair wages
During the pandemic, today’s young children experienced the same social isolation as the rest of us, except it came at an important stage of development.
Childcare programs have noticed the difference.
“There has been a widespread increase in social emotional delays with children, so it’s more important than ever that we adapt the classroom environment and curriculum to meet their individual needs,” notes Belliveau.
Individual needs would be more easily met if programs could depend on reliable staffing. Unfortunately, low wages make early education an unsustainable career for many.
“We lost three teachers shortly after re-accreditation,” said Worcester Comprehensive Education and Care Program Director Gloria Sinclair. “Two of them moved on to the public school system. I have been trying to maintain enrollment and keep quality staff. However, educator compensation is even more important now due to rising inflation.”
Programs are doing everything they can to improve educator pay while providing support in other ways too.
“Our teachers need ongoing specific knowledge and skills, adequate financial compensation, and a supportive workplace condition,” Belliveau noted, adding that the YWCA “will strategize how to improve compensation for educators and support their professional development.”
“We’re excited to help all our educators meet their educational goals and objectives for continued personal and professional growth,” said Webster Square Day Care Center Executive Director Eileen Lavallee.