Accreditation is a voluntary process that schools undergo in order to prove that they meet certain academic, social and quality standards. More common in junior and senior high schools and colleges, accreditation is becoming more popular in early childhood education.
Accreditation generally has three steps: a self-assessment done by the school, an outside assessment done by the accrediting body and approval. The outside assessment usually involves school visits, teacher and administrator interviews and student observations.
The process of accreditation can be costly and can take years. Of the nearly 100,000 preschools and early childhood education centers nationwide, only about ten percent are accredited.
The largest accrediting organization for preschool programs is the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
An accredited program should not be confused with one that is licensed. In order to be accredited, a program has to be licensed but not all licensed programs are accredited.