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NAEYC Accreditation of Early Learning Programs provides a transformative quality-improvement system—a rigorous process programs can engage in to meet the highest program standards for quality early learning. While NAEYC Accreditation follows a four-step process toward achieving accreditation, that process may look different for each program. NAEYC individualizes the process to ensure that your program always strives for continuous quality improvement in a way that works for your staff, the children, and their families.


NAEYC Accreditation is voluntary and is valid up to five-years. During the fourth year of accreditation, the program repeats the process by submitting renewal materials to receive a site visit, and accreditation decision in order to gain a new five year term.  Programs pursuing initial accreditation must complete four steps:

Four Step Process

Step 1: Enroll
Step 2: Application
Step 3: Candidacy
Step 4: Site visit
Accreditation Decisions

Step 1. Enroll

Enrollment is open to any early learning program interested in providing high quality care for children and families.  Whether you are considering becoming NAEYC accredited, or working to strengthen your program quality, enrolling in the process will give you access to resources designed to create a shared understanding of NAEYC accreditation standards and best practices, and engage all stakeholders of your program (staff, families, community) in continuous quality improvement. As part of the collaborative process of learning and reflection, self-study lays the foundation for continuous program quality improvement.

Watch a short video about Step 1 of the accreditation process. This video will help programs gain a better understanding of how to conduct Self-Study and gain a shared understanding of the NAEYC Accreditation Standards and Assessment Items. Click Here>>


To enroll complete and submit the enrollment form and fee.

  • Your program will receive notification of successful enrollment, and assignment of a NAEYC accreditation program identification number.

  • Programs gain access to their NAEYC program record upon successful enrollment.

Enrollment is valid for up to 2 years. You can choose to enroll again and continue with access to quality improvement resources, or submit an application for the site visit assessment.

Step 2. Application and Eligibility

When your program is ready to move forward with the accreditation process you will submit the application and choose your timeline for the site visit. Application is the programs official commitment to purse the NAEYC Accreditation process. This step is designed to help celebrate strengths, make improvements, and document process. Programs must demonstrate that the meet all eligibility requirements in order to be accepted as an applicant for NAEYC Accreditation. The eligibility requirements must be maintained throughout the NAEYC Accreditation process and the program’s five year accreditation term.

Watch a short video about Step 2 of the accreditation process. This video will explain how programs should conduct self-assessment and what tasks programs should be doing during the self-assessment phase of the process. Click Here>>>

View the Eligibility Requirements

To apply complete and submit the application form and fee.  

Programs will receive notification confirming their candidacy due date. To change a candidacy due date a new application and fee are required.

During the application step programs build upon the learning and reflective work of self-study by conducting a formal, improvement-focused self-assessment that includes observations and portfolio documentation.. Programs may use NAEYC rating tools to conduct practice observations of their classes and their overall program environment. The program administrator and the teaching staff must compile portfolios of documentary evidence to demonstrate how they meet specific assessment items related to NAEYC standards and best practices. These class and program portfolios are reviewed and rated by a NAEYC assessor during the accreditation site visit.

Step 3. Candidacy

The candidacy materials provide NAEYC with information to schedule the site visit and ensures that your program has prepared the required self-assessment materials for review. As an applicant for accreditation, the candidacy materials have been provided to you through your program record.

The candidacy materials include:

  • A request for details of the program’s classes, ages served, sites and staff, confirmation of the current license/regulatory status, and acknowledgement of the program’s rights and responsibilities in the accreditation process.

  • As part of their description of professional staff, candidacy materials may include documentation staff educational qualifications when relevant. Staff are not required to meet any level of formal education in order for the program to be approved as a candidate for accreditation

  • Confirmation of a small subset of documentation from the program’s self-assessment.


Watch a short video about Step 3 of the accreditation process. This video will explain the tasks program should be completing during this step. Click Here>>>


Please be sure to follow the timeline in your application and submit your candidacy materials and fee by the due date based on the site visit window.

  • Candidacy is approved once all documentation has been submitted and no further information is needed.  Approved candidates can expect a site visit within six months of the candidacy due date.

  • Candidacy is deferred if a program fails to submit complete candidacy materials. If candidacy is deferred, programs must return to Step 2, submitting a new application form and fee to receive a new candidacy due date.

Step 4: Accreditation Site Visit

NAEYC’s site visit provides an independent assessment of program quality by an assessor who has been rigorously trained to provide a reliable rating of the program.  Once an assessor is assigned to your program he/she, will contact your program to plan the visit. For more details review the pre-visit protocolsite visit protocol and the administrator information packet.


During the site visit you are expected to demonstrate that your program practices substantially meet the NAEYC Early Learning Program Accreditation Standards and Assessment Items through observations and portfolio evidence that is rated by the assessor.  Following the site visit, the data is scored by NAEYC and an accreditation decision is issued.


Watch a short video about Step 4 of the accreditation process. This video will explain what to expect while waiting for a site visit. Click Here>>>


NAEYC’s site visit provides an independent assessment of program quality by an assessor who has been rigorously trained to provide a reliable rating of the program.  Once an assessor is assigned to your program he/she, will contact your program to plan the visit. For more details review;
Established Process

Streamlined Opt-In Process

Accreditation Decisions

NAEYC accreditation decisions are made using reliable tools and data collection protocols. The Council for NAEYC Accreditation oversees accreditation decisions by determining, reviewing and overseeing the implementation of the definitions for accreditation decisions.


NAEYC will provide your program with an Accreditation Decision Report within three months of the site visit with one of the following accreditation decisions:

Accredited — your program meets the following site visit requirements to pass the assessment:

  • Meet each of the 10 standards at a 80% pass rate

  • Meet all required assessment items

  • For each class selected to be assessed, meet 70% of the assessment items.


Deferred — your program does not meet one or more site visit requirements. The Accreditation Decision Report will provide you with information about your scores and the the next steps for your program.  

Deferred programs have two options:

  • ​Appeal the decision.  See the Decision Appeals Policy for more information.

  • Return to enrollment and continue to pursue NAEYC Accreditation by submitting a new application and fee when you are ready to choose a window for your site visit.

Need Help with Accreditation?

Call: 1-800-424-2460, option 3. | Email:

Share your feedback about NAEYC Accreditation and help us improve!
Submit feedback on the accreditation system.  

Audience: Administrator (director or principal)FacultyTeacherTrainer

Topics: AccreditationNAEYC Early Learning Program Accreditation

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