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How Our Accreditation Process Works

Programs are required to spend a minimum of 6 months in the self-study process. Self-study is an in-depth self-assessment of all aspects of the program, including administrative review, classroom observation, staff and family surveys and professional development plans.


Programs are required to spend a minimum of 6 months in the self-study process. Self-study is an in-depth self-assessment of all aspects of the program, including administrative review, classroom observation, staff and family surveys and professional development plans.


During the Self-Study phase, parents, staff, and administrators evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the program as they apply to Standards of the National Accreditation Commission. The program’s administrative procedures are reviewed using the Administrator’s Report, and classroom practices are assessed using the Classroom Observation. Parent and staff surveys are conducted, the Formal Education and Ongoing Training Log is compiled, and supporting documentation is gathered and organized as required in the Document Organization. After critical self-examination of procedures and practices, the program makes improvements. The program has a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years to complete the Self-Study and to request an onsite visit. Upon enrollment, programs receive an Accreditation Manual which they will use throughout the Self-Study and the first two years of accreditation.

Validation Visit

Programs request a validation visit only when satisfied that improvements have been made and Commission Standards are met. Certain requirements must be met and documents submitted to be considered for a visit. During the visit, the validator(s) will review documents, sample children and staff files and verify parent and staff surveys in order to confirm the program’s ratings as reported in the final copy of the Administrator’s Report. The validator(s) will make observations in classrooms to verify the ratings of individual classrooms as recorded in the final copies of the Classroom Observation. After completion of these tasks, the validator will conduct an Exit Interview with the director. During this time, each standard and/or indicator found to be without sufficient supporting evidence will be reviewed and the director will have an opportunity to make a written response.

Commission Review and Decision

The Administrator’s Report, each Classroom Observation, written validator comments and recorded director responses from the onsite visit are mailed to the Association office by the validator. Commission early childhood experts closely review all documentation and commission rules are applied to determine the award, deferral or denial of accreditation. It may take up to four-months after the validation visit for the program to receive the accreditation decision.

Maintaining Accreditation Compliance

Adherence to Commission Standards must become a habit. It falls on the shoulders of the onsite director to assure that Commission Standards are consistently maintained after an award of accreditation.

Annual Reports

During the four-year award period, accredited programs are required to submit annual reports. The reports are due on the anniversary date of accreditation. The reports inform the National Accreditation Commission of improvements made to more fully meet Standards and describe activities conducted to maintain on-going compliance with standards. Failure to submit an Annual Report is grounds for withdrawal of accreditation. Incomplete or unacceptable Annual Reports will result in temporary suspension of accreditation until all required information has been received.

Unannounced Visits

In granting an award of accreditation, the National Accreditation Commission retains the right to evaluate the program at any time. Unannounced visits by Accreditation Commission representatives may be made to accredited centers at any time to determine on-going compliance with Commission Standards. Unannounced visits may be made randomly or based on evidence of non-compliance, such as written complaints, licensing reports or annual reports. Depending on the seriousness of the findings, accreditation may be withdrawn. In this case, the program would have to re-enroll and undergo a thorough self-study to be reconsidered for accreditation by the National Accreditation Commission. The decision to withdraw accreditation is final. There is no appeal.

Reporting Changes to the National Accreditation Commission

The National Accreditation Commission must be notified immediately of any change in: director/ administration, ownership, relocation or expansion, significant licensing non-compliance, loss or suspension of license or criminal conviction of a staff member. Current contact information is needed by the National Accreditation Commission to provide programs with notices/reminders, changes in policies and procedures, etc. for which they will be held responsible during the Self-Study period and during the time the program holds an award of accreditation. Notifications sent to the contact information on file in the Association Office will be considered valid and the program will be held accountable for the content of the notifications. Immediately notify the National Accreditation Commission of program changes by submitting the Initial Notification Form (found on the Accreditation Forms page).

Withdrawal of Accreditation

The award of accreditation may be withdrawn if it is determined that the program:

  • is no longer in compliance with Commission Standards
  • has failed to comply with Commission procedures
  • has failed to submit required documentation
  • has reported false information

The Association for Early Learning Leaders is committed to excellence in the field of early childhood care and education by promoting leadership development and enhancing program quality.

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