What is a
Being informed and knowing what to look for will help you make the best selection for your child
Aren’t all licensed programs “high quality”?
Licensing is about safety, not education. Licensed and regulated centers, along with family home providers, are required to maintain a minimum set of health, safety and training standards. A center could meet all licensing standards and do very little in the way of child development.
What’s the difference between “accreditation” and “star rating”?
A “star rating” is a quality assessment by the state of Virginia. It shows, on a scale of one to five stars, how far a center has gone beyond minimum licensing standards—and more importantly, by participating in the program, the center has shown a commitment to improving its quality. Learn about the Virginia Star Quality Initiative.
“Accredited” child care centers, preschools and family care homes are those that have gone beyond the minimum licensing standards and have voluntarily met the standards set by national childcare organizations. These standards often include professional development requirements, child development training and positive discipline programs. A highly respected accreditation is NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children). Fewer than 10% of child care centers are NAEYC accredited—and only 0.8% of family care homes.
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Choosing a quality
preschool or child care environment is one of the most important decisions you can make.
Why do accreditation and star ratings matter?
While there are certainly some high-quality centers that have chosen not to undergo these voluntary assessment processes, accreditation and ratings help parents choose an identified early education program with proven quality and success.
What characteristics make a center high-quality?
• Low staff-child ratio
• Well-trained teaching staff with degrees in early childhood education
• Developmentally appropriate curriculum and learning experiences
• Focus on social-emotional growth
• Strong parent involvement
• Warm, positive interactions between teachers and children
• Happy buzz of activity—neither too quiet nor too loud
• Child-focused environment where the
child is given choices
• Wide variety of materials available and
accessible to children
• Play—including dramatic play, blocks, active
outdoor play—integrated into topics of study
• Teachers who use positive speech
and are loving and responsive to a child
• Effective administration
• Nutritious meals and snacks