AMES–Northwood Preschool Center has attained renewed accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) for its preschool programming for 3 and 4 year olds. The accreditation renewal process began in the spring of 2015 and culminated with a two-day site visit in the fall.

Northwood provides preschool programming under the guidelines of  Iowa’s Statewide Voluntary Preschool program.

Northwood Preschool Center Principal Brandon Schrauth said NAEYC assessors reviewed 417 criteria for evidence of program quality in classroom and program portfolios, staff certifications, and health and safety. They conducted nine random 60-minute classroom visits, observing for 188 criteria from 10 different standards.

Schrauth said a program must meet at least 70% of the criteria for each standard to achieve accreditation. The Northwood programs earned more than 100% on several standards, he said.

“Meeting standards at such a high level has a direct impact on student success,” Schrauth said. Northwood shined on the Relationships standard, for example, because staff demonstrated how it values staff relationships and relationships with students and families.

“Our staff forms relationships through powerful interactions that help us get to know each individual child and family’s interests, prior knowledge, and needs.” he said. “We also value each other as colleagues.”

Schrauth said the programs’ high scores on Assessment stem from strategies that staff identified to lead to better understanding of each individual child’s learning process.

“These assessments range from daily observations to more formal benchmarks,” he said. “At the heart of these assessments, we strive to document student learning to make their thinking visible. This leads to collaboration around what students are learning and what experiences we need to provide for them next.”

Schrauth said the accreditation experience was valuable for celebrating successes and reflecting on areas of focus for improvement.

“In the coming year, our staff will process the feedback that NAEYC provided to us, such as how we integrate the arts into our curriculum and support teacher professional development goals,” he said.  “This will be an integral part of our journey to further define the Northwood experience.”