Preschool and Kindergartens in the USA

The consensus around the world is that the most formative years of a child’s life is between the ages of 0-5 years old and those years set the platform for future growth, learning and development.

It’s always interesting to do a quick comparison of how countries meet the needs of children across the globe. First stop USA.

Preschool and Kindergarten in the USA

The United States firmly believes in these Pre School, Pre Kindergarten years and has adopted some excellent programs for children’s learning over the years. A conference sponsored by the United Nations in the early 90’s emphasised the importance of educating children during their early years of brain development. According to conference presenters, educational programs designed for pre-kindergarten children can decrease future dropout rates, improve children’s cognition and other brain functions, and improve the overall quality of life. To meet the needs of children, particularly in the United States, more emphasis has been placed on pre-school and daycare educational programs in the last 30 years.

The US government has got behind the notion of Pre K programs – and there has been many acts established -, “No Child Left Behind” of 2001, and the bipartisan act of “Every Student Succeeds Act” 2015 –  to ensure access for children to PRE K education, especially for those living below the poverty line in the USA. These have been implemented to give every child a chance at success and preparedness for when they enter formal schooling, which is from ages 5-18.

How Early Childhood Education programs are funded

Did you know that in the United States, most tax funded educational programs are organised and administered at the local and state level. In fact, only about 10 percent of money allocated for education is provided by the federal government. The remaining 90 percent of funding comes from state and municipal governments and private organisations. Since most education is administered locally, state legislatures and local school districts determine curricula and testing standards. Private schools usually develop their own curricula and standards. Not like in Australia – we are federally governed by bodies, rules and regulations.

Even though efforts are being made to make pre-school education available for all American children, pre-school tuition rates continue to rise. The annual tuition for some pre-schools is comparable to the annual tuition rates at Ivy League universities. Rising tuition costs for pre-school is making it more difficult for parents to send their children to these programs. Pre K is big business for some private enterprises, and the children that need it the most are still missing out.

Preschool Licensing and Accreditation

In the US, preschools undergo a licensing process before they can begin to operate – and like Australia this also is different to being accredited.

What is the Preschool Licensing Process?

Preschools are licensed by the state, county, or city government. Licenses are given to schools which meet minimum health, safety, and teacher training requirements set by the appropriate governing body. These requirements vary by locality; in some areas, a license merely proves that a preschool is a registered business.

Once licenced, Accredited institutions are held to even higher standards. Accreditation is a process by which schools are evaluated and shown to meet high standards of quality. In other words, if a school is accredited by a reputable accrediting agency, it has proven itself to be a high quality institution. Accreditation is more common in colleges, universities, and junior and senior high schools, but it is becoming more popular in the world of early childhood education. The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the nation’s largest accrediting agency for preschools.

What is the Accreditation Process?

The typical accreditation process involves three steps. Some similarities are present to that of the A&R process that Australian Early Childhood Centres go through.

  1. First, the school undergoes a self-assessment and reports its findings to the accrediting agency.
  2. Second, the accrediting agency (an external, third-party entity) performs an assessment.
  3. Third, the school is approved for accredited status, or must go back to an earlier stage of the process. The accrediting agency, throughout the course of the assessment, sends representatives to visit the school, conducts interviews with the teachers, students, and administration.

Accreditation can be a lengthy and involved process in the USA, often taking several years. This is why only 10% of the nation’s early childhood education organisations are accredited.

Imagine being in the world where only 10% of services are accredited! Perhaps Australia is paving the way for recognised high quality.

Don’t forget The Education Gap can support your high quality efforts each and every day!