Project Background: Community colleges are on the front line in preparing adults to educate our youngest and most vulnerable children. Most of the adults working in the field begin their formal education in a community college early childhood education (EC) degree program. Moreover, when the state increases licensing requirements for EC professionals, as it did in 2009, community colleges deliver the additional required coursework needed by the field to comply. Enrollment in EC classes at Colorado’s Community Colleges increased by over 300% between 2008 and 2010 (from 4,500 to 14,800 students). These students reach and teach almost 70% of the 233,000 Colorado children enrolled in licensed early care and education settings.
With funding from the Boettcher Foundation, Clayton supported 9 of the 16 Colorado Community College EC programs in achieving National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) accreditation as a mechanism to advance quality in the preparation and ongoing development of early childhood professionals. In March, 2012, the NAEYC Commission on Early Childhood Associate Degree Accreditation awarded accreditation to the following Colorado Community College Early Childhood Programs:
- Arapahoe Community College
- Front Range Community College
- Otero Junior College
- Pikes Peak Community College
- Pueblo Community College
- Red Rocks Community College
- Trinidad State Junior College
- Aims Community College
- Colorado Mountain College
Four other colleges whose programs were currently too small for accreditation, Morgan Community College, Delta-Montrose Technical, CCCOnline and Western Colorado Community College, a division of Mesa State University, fully participated in the self-study and received state-level peer visits. Only two institutions with an EC program in the system declined to participate.
NAEYC accreditation consist of a self-study that requires programs to review their program purpose, their community involvement and support, their students, their college requirements for faculty and student support, and the support the college provides to the program. The last section reviews their course assignments for alignment with the NAEYC standards and supportive skills for professional growth and development of the student. That data is used to continue program improvement. Programs must document both the criteria used to determine students’ learning related to the standards and five assessments used to measure their progress. Data from these assessments is intended to be used for program improvement in addition to feedback to students. Each program that is accredited is required to file an annual report with NAEYC that reflects the data collection, data analysis and the continuous program improvement.