Accreditation: What's it all about?
The National Association for the Education of Young Children certifies more than 8,000 preschools nationwide. Though certification is not mandatory for preschools, it does represent a reference point, a sort of Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. (While the NAEYC doesn't favor a specific philosophy, it does advocate developmental learning over rote academics.)
Preschools must request evaluations, paying from $575 to $1,250 depending on the size of the school for the application and assessment, which must be conducted every three years to remain valid. Factors the NAEYC considers include:
Teacher/child ratio: 1:4 for infants, 1:10 for three- to five-year-olds, 1:12 for kindergartners
Number of children per room: No more than eight infants or 20 pre-schoolers
Adequate space: 35 square feet per child indoors and 75 square feet outside, though exceptions are made for urban programs
Teacher training: NAEYC prefers that teachers have at least an associate's degree in early childhood education
Teacher turnover: Though there are no specific requirements, the organization tries to make sure its schools do better than the national average turnover rate of 40%.
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