CONYERS -- Rockdale Career Academy's early learning program is gaining national attention.
Rockdale County Public Schools announced this week that the Early Learning Center at RCA earned accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the nation's leading organization of early childhood professionals.
"We're proud to have earned the mark of quality from NAEYC, and to be recognized for our commitment to reaching the highest professional standards," said Dr. Samuel King, superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools, in a press release. "NAEYC accreditation lets families in our community know that children in our program are getting the best care and early learning experiences possible. I appreciate the hard work and dedication of our teachers, administrators and staff so that all of our young children may enter kindergarten ready to learn and thrive."
The ELC opened in 2009 and serves 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children in moderate- to low-income families to provide a formal school setting before they enter prekindergarten or kindergarten. It's a full-day preschool program using the Reggio Emilia curriculum.
"(The accreditation) is a big deal," said Jesseca Causey, early learning coordinator for RCPS. "It was a very rigorous process."
She said it included a year of self study, and in January, the program found out it was a potential candidate for the accreditation.
Staff had to create program portfolios and had to meet more than 400 standards, Causey said. In May, accreditation assessors visited RCA to evaluate teachers, leadership and the program before making a final decision.
"I am so proud to be part of a team and work in a community that is putting children first," Causey said. "The ELC staff is a tremendous group of educators who have truly earned this recognition. I believe this is not just a celebration for us as a preschool, but also a celebration for the work in early education in our community."
NAEYC-accredited programs are also subject to unannounced visits during their accreditation, which lasts for five years.
Causey said being part of this accreditation will not change the program, but it lets her staff know that they are providing a gold standard and earning national attention.
"We are going to continue to serve families and children the way we have been doing," Causey said.
More than 7,000 programs are accredited by NAEYC, approximately 8 percent of all preschools and other early childhood programs.
"The NAEYC Accreditation system raises the bar for child care centers and other early childhood programs," said Dr. Jerlean E. Daniel, executive director of NAEYC. "Having earned NAEYC Accreditation is a sign that the RCA Early Learning Center is a leader in a national effort to invest in high-quality early childhood education."