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The NAEYC Early Childhood Program: Quality Evaluation Essay

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Updated: Jul 28th, 2020

Introduction

To evaluate the program’s quality, the NAEYC early childhood program standards and self-assessment checklist will be used. Based on the observations, notes, and collaboration with a colleague I aim to provide recommendations necessary for the program’s improvement.

Program Assessment Tools

The NAEYC early childhood program standards and accreditation criteria allow education professionals and those aspiring to become teachers and educators to see what criteria are necessary for a thorough evaluation of program quality. The purpose of these standards is to draw the professional’s attention to different areas of a program. Whereas some of the program assessment tools prefer to focus on curriculum, assessment of the child progress, and teaching techniques or strategies, NAEYC program standards incorporate more than that.

They also focus on more personal domains in education such as positive relationships between teachers, families, and children, social relations between children and teachers’ influence on it, challenges in students’ behaviors, relationships between the staff and families, environment, and the relation between health and education (NAEYC, 2015). Furthermore, the standards also stress the importance of instructional approaches, their variety, and relevance. The assessment of child progress is built on the constant communication between educators and families, whereas effective leadership and management are seen as crucial for high-quality care and education (NAEYC, 2015).

As can be seen, the standards cover ten various dimensions of an early childhood program that have to be taken into consideration by any educational facility striving to provide quality education and care.

I would like to point out the importance of some of these concepts (or dimensions) by providing examples. Although everyone agrees that effective communication is the cornerstone of fruitful cooperation, I often notice that educators fail to understand one another during the working process. Such inability to communicate results in ineffective education strategies, as well as the reluctance to work together on complex issues (e.g. challenging behaviors). As to the physical environment, educators should also be aware that students’ ability to learn directly relates to it (e.g. the accessibility of books, the form of chairs and tables, etc.).

The self-assessment checklist allows the educator to understand what strengths and weaknesses there are in the program. With the help of this checklist, educators review the program’s ability to engage parents in the education process and facilitate communication between the staff and families. Using this checklist, I am able to understand what possible weaknesses are not addressed by the staff and how they can affect children and their families; for example, lack of adult education can influence both the student and their parent(s), since socio-economical conditions often depend on parental educational status.

Since the program takes place at a military installation, some limitations remain unavoidable, despite their adverse influence on families or the staff. For example, the lack of a family directory can complicate the working process, but it is not allowed due to policy requirements. At the same time, after I reviewed the checklist, I realized that the staff could add other benefits to cover the limitations that we were not able to change. Moreover, this checklist also fosters educators’ ability to understand how and why some of the challenges arise. For example, as we are not allowed to use families to meet program needs, there may be some disruptions in the communication between the staff and parents. Additionally, the program’s potential could improve if parents were allowed to contribute to its needs, and some of the challenges arise precisely due to this limitation.

As can be seen, the program self-assessment checklist is a useful tool for a detailed evaluation of the program’s explicit and implicit strengths and weaknesses.

Evaluation and Recommendations

Program Evaluation

The overall program quality with regard to Standards 7 is more than satisfactory, as the reader will see from the standards’ evaluation. The program supports and encourages family participation in decision-making by providing families with a family profile that needs to be completed at the time of enrollment, conference forms where children’s accomplishments are listed, regular (3 times a year or more) conferences for staff-family communication.

Two-way communication is supported by e-mails, phone conversations, and face-to-face interactions; all communication is documented in a log journal. However, we are not allowed to use online technologies to communicate with families due to policy requirements, which can negatively influence communication between families and the staff. The program environment is mostly well-organized: we post information about the staff in the main hallway, organize events that include childcare, meals, and snacks; we also wear name tags, and all rooms in the facility are labeled. However, we do not provide any interpreters or written materials in other languages because all families speak English.

The facility offers volunteer opportunities for parents, hosts social events, asks parents to complete a family profile to incorporate their culture because the planning reflects the family’s environment. However, we cannot use parents to meet program needs due to policy requirements (it is a fully-funded military facility). We encourage learning at home by providing a lending library for parents and children and monthly newsletters.

An inclusion specialist, as well as local family events, take part in the program to promote learning activities. The Parent Involvement Board includes a discussion of issues, and the staff provides assistance to parents if necessary to increase family participation in program-level decisions. We do not inform parents about the need for advocacy due to policy requirements. However, the program’s inclusive standards are reflected in policies, books, development plans, etc.

As to Standards 1, positive relationships among teachers, families, and children were built via conversations, weekly notes, e-mails, and other interactions. Children were allowed to ask open-ended questions, classroom newsletter recognized their achievements, and overall teachers showed respect to and interest in their students. The inclusion of students with differing abilities was perfect, since teachers understood, accepted, and supported the needs of a child with autism, and the students’ group was also taught about their possible needs and abilities. Friendship was supported by teachers and lessons’ plans that focused on communication and social-emotional development. Bullying and aggression were addressed by teachers immediately, with additional guidance about such behavior in a calm manner, which is a recommended strategy for PS teachers (Bennathan & Boxall, 2013).

To promote self-regulation, teachers encouraged talking to resolve an issue (e.g. when two children wanted the same chair, the teacher engaged them in a conversation and allowed to come to a satisfactory resolution).

The detected problems related to various dimensions. Teachers in the classroom with one-year-old students did not encourage independent problem-solving and preferred to address issues themselves. One of the infant teachers did not consider infants’ level of arousal and continued to read the book because this activity was “planned”. Generally, teachers who worked with one- and two-year-old students were less consistent in their actions and decisions to speak on the child’s eye level than teachers in the preschool room, which did not correspond with the standard’s criteria for building positive relationships between teachers and children.

More problems were detected when I reviewed the program’s quality in accordance with Standard 8 – Community Relationships. The program’s strengths will be discussed at first since all its limitations are due to the fact that the program takes place on an isolated military installation. The staff uses knowledge of the community by celebrating Month of the Military Child, where military children’s experience is connected to their learning experiences.

Program staff also provides families with information about other community events by posting this information at the facility. Program staff participates in other childhood organizations; 75% of the staff are members of NAEYC. Furthermore, the staff also works with other childcare centers and discusses different problems with employees of these facilities. Program leadership provides all necessary information about policy changes (local or related to the Department of Defense) by sending out e-mails or establishing additional training.

The program’s weaknesses are as follows: stakeholder involvement, as recommended in the standards, is not possible because it is a military childcare program that cannot function beyond the Department of Defense’s policy requirements. Any other cultural resources (urban, suburban, etc.) cannot be used due to the program’s location on an isolated base, where the library is the only cultural resource available for children.

Members of the performing and visual arts community are not invited to share their experience with children because the majority of the events on the base are based on entertainment and not education. However, adults who share their experiences with children can foster children’s motivation to learn and explore (Donohue, 2016). Therefore, to improve the quality of the program, the staff should focus on the mentioned problems and limitations that can disrupt or interfere with the learning process of children. For example, teachers’ inability to consider and adjust to infants’ level of arousal can have an adverse impact on infants’ interest in learning and their motivation.

Recommendations

The first recommendation would be to pay more attention to teacher-student interaction, especially in the one-year-old room. I had noticed during my observations that teachers preferred not to encourage students when those confronted a problem-solving task and intervened, thus interfering with the child’s ability to work on problems independently. Interactions between children and teachers during an interactive process or assignment are crucial because “the adult has to gauge accurately and react to the child’s responses appropriately” (Sun & Rao, 2012, p. 111). According to the standards, the teaching staff is expected to help children manage their behavior by guiding and supporting children to use problem-solving techniques (NAEYC, 2015).

However, those teachers that I observed during my research did not encourage children but, instead, decided to choose the easiest way, i.e. to complete the task themselves. I believe that these teachers might need additional training from other staff to understand how children’s problem-solving skills can be engaged during an assignment. The training can be quick and consist of one or two workshops where colleagues will share some pieces of advice, train together, and discuss possible teaching strategies.

Another recommendation relates to Standard 7 (Families), namely, to the lack of adult education. The possibility to create adult education courses is limited because such an attempt might not correspond with the military installation’s safety and regulation policies. However, the facility can provide several conferences about the importance of parental involvement in the child’s learning process, thus providing the ground for parent education. As McKenna and Millen (2013) point out, it is important for parents to take part in different traditional school activities, such as homework help, conferences, and lunchtime visits.

The program can establish adult education services by providing information necessary for parents during monthly or annual meetings, thus facilitating parent inclusion and engagement. It should also be noted that parent education positively influences the reduction of challenging behaviors in students with disabilities; the authors of the study suggest group coaching for parents as a possible intervention to improve students’ challenging behaviors (Lequia, Machalicek, & Lyons, 2013). Since it is an inclusive program, parents of students with disabilities will be particularly interested in such coaching sessions.

Another recommendation would be to pay attention to the lack of cultural events and other local celebrations that can enrich children’s experience. Since it is hardly possible to organize many cultural events for children on an isolated military base, my suggestion would be to start with something simpler, for example, Parents’ Day at school. Parents can share their experience with their children and other students, take part in competitions and assignments, teach children about their work, and discuss various topics (possibly curriculum-based ones). Of course, such interventions cannot be compared to experiences that could be shared by local artists or performers. However, they are capable of increasing students’ motivation to learn and expanding their overall experience by creating new friendships and acquaintances.

The last recommendation will address the seemingly lacking plan of negotiation in case of any difficulties with families arise. Contentious negotiation is a vital part of any communication at an education facility interested in building healthy relationships with parents (Cammarota, Moll, Gonzalez, & Cannella, 2013).

Therefore, the program should consider adding a list of negotiation techniques or a negotiation plan as a reading requirement for all teachers at the facility. It is safe to assume that such intervention will only enhance cooperation and communication between parents and educators. Moreover, it can also have a positive influence on students’ achievements since educators will be more aware of parents’ anticipations, wishes, and dislikes. With the negotiation plan at hand, the program will align with the following standards’ criteria: “program staff uses a variety of techniques to negotiate difficulties that arise in their interactions with family members” (NAEYC, 2015, p. 12). If the provided recommendations are followed, the quality of the program will increase significantly, thus facilitating educators’ work and students’ learning process.

Compromise, Mutual Respect, and Shared Responsibility

I shared my evaluation with one of the colleagues in the early childhood profession. Although we sometimes had a different view on the same problem, our ability to understand and respect each other’s opinions resulted in an efficient collaboration. The tools we used during our collaboration included a presentation of one’s opinion, its evaluation, and further discussion.

For example, I did not think that lacking education events could be transformed into Parents’ Day at school. At first, this idea appeared unappealing to me because the majority of the parents work in the same industry. However, my colleague noticed that their experience still could foster children’s interest in various occupations (even if they all relate to the military) and show them how a job can influence the life of an individual. Such an approach toward parents’ experience helped us enrich the expressed recommendations.

I believe that the understanding of a shared responsibility contributes not only to collaborations on program recommendations but the overall teaching process as well. Graziano and Navarrete (2012) argue that co-teaching can “address diverse learning needs and increase student achievement” (p. 123).

In return, I believe that cooperation between students or educators can result in the development of more precise teaching techniques and strategies that will directly address issues detected by such a tool as the self-assessment checklist. A skill I find particularly important for achieving various stakeholders’ needs is flexibility. It is vital to understand how different interests can be modified or adjusted if necessary. The willingness to cooperate is another skill that becomes a foundation for any successful and mindful collaboration because without it stakeholders usually prefer pursuing only their own interests (Albers et al., 2012). Thus, good relationships between stakeholders and their respect for each other can lead to professional, efficient cooperation.

Conclusion

Despite the several weaknesses detected in the program, its overall quality is excellent. Almost all criteria of the standards are followed; some of the limitations arise due to the program’s (full military) funding. Cooperation with a colleague allowed me to produce a set of recommendations crucial for the program that will improve its effectiveness and quality.

References

Albers, W., Budescu, D. V., Crettenden, A., Diekmann, A., Doi, T., Erev, I., & Güth, W. (2012). Social dilemmas and cooperation. Berlin, Germany: Springer Science & Business Media.

Bennathan, M., & Boxall, M. (2013). Effective intervention in primary schools: Nurture groups. New York, NY: Routledge.

Cammarota, J., Moll, L., Gonzalez, M., & Cannella, C. (2013). Sociocultural perspectives on interpersonal relationships in schools. Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, 6(3), 12-16.

Donohue, C. (2016). Family engagement in the digital age: Early childhood educators as media mentors. New York, NY: Routledge.

Graziano, K. J., & Navarrete, L. A. (2012). Co-teaching in a teacher education classroom: Collaboration, compromise, and creativity. Issues in Teacher Education, 21(1), 109-126.

Lequia, J., Machalicek, W., & Lyons, G. (2013). Parent education intervention results in decreased challenging behavior and improved task engagement for students with disabilities during academic tasks. Behavioral Interventions, 28(4), 322-343.

McKenna, M. K., & Millen, J. (2013). Look! Listen! Learn! Parent narratives and grounded theory models of parent voice, presence, and engagement in K-12 education. School Community Journal, 23(1), 9-48.

NAEYC. (2015). NAEYC early childhood program standards and accreditation criteria. Web.

Sun, J., & Rao, N. (2012). Scaffolding interactions with preschool children: Comparisons between Chinese mothers and teachers across different tasks. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 58(1), 110-140.

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