The Growing Place, which has two campuses in Santa Monica, is one of the first early childhood education programs to receive accreditation under the new standards set by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
These new standards define criteria in 10 areas and were put into place by NAEYC in 2006. The standard areas include: relationships between teachers, students, and families; curriculum; teaching; assessment of a child’s progress; health; how teachers are treated; how the school supports families; the school’s relationship with the community; the school’s leadership and management; and the physical environment.
In an interview with the Mirror, The Growing Place’s Executive Director, Ellen Khokha noted there was a real need for articulating standards for early education programs because in the United States “we don’t have national standards.” Her school went through an extensive self-study and evaluation process in order to receive the accreditation that involved parents and staff responding to questionnaires, and a review of the school’s management, as well as an on-site visit by NAEYC assessors. The new NAEYC accreditation is valid for five years, and during that period accredited programs can be subject to unannounced site visits.
According to the NAEYC website, a school’s accreditation makes it easier for families make a better school choice for their child and makes early education programs stronger because of the self-study involved in the accreditation process. NAYEC has been setting standards for early childhood education since 1985.
Khokha explained that the philosophy at her school is to have “children make meaning out of all their learning experiences. Our curriculum is co-constructed between teachers and the children.” They focus on problem solving, effectively dealing with frustration, listening to other points of view, learning to take one’s turn, and collaborative projects. They want to prepare children to be “flexible, sturdy thinkers.”
The school serves young children from 3 months through kindergarten and follows the NAEYC teacher/student ratios. The ratios for infants are 1:3, for toddlers 1:6, and for preschoolers 1:8.
Khokha stressed that “there are many more children that deserve this kind of education than we can serve.” She also stated that there was a strong “need for advocacy for quality early education programs.”
The Growing Place was started 23 years ago and currently has campuses in Marine Park and Ocean Park that serve 130 children.