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National Association for the Education of Young Children

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is a nonprofit organization of early childhood professionals and others who are dedicated to improving the quality of early childhood education. More than 100,000 members strong, the association comprises a network of more than 400 affiliated local, state, and regional organizations, which share the belief that children's high-quality experiences at home and in child care, schools, and after-school programs lay the foundation for school readiness, academic success, and adult achievement.

Since its founding in 1926, NAEYC has promoted a vision of excellence in early childhood education that focuses on supporting the rights and needs of children. The association works with parents, teachers, business leaders, and policymakers to bring high-quality early education and care to all young children, from birth through age eight. NAEYC is best known for raising the quality of child care and other early learning programs. The association's voluntary national accreditation system helps improve early childhood education and recognizes high-quality programs so that parents and other decision makers can make informed choices. Its position statements, which are informed by research and practice, have addressed a wide range of topics: for example, developmentally appropriate teaching practices; the teaching of reading, writing, and mathematics in the early years; program licensing to ensure health and safety in child care settings; the role of early childhood professionals in preventing child abuse and neglect; and the support of diverse families.

NAEYC focuses on professional preparation, resources, and training for individuals who educate children birth through age eight. Working with higher education institutions to set standards for preparing teachers, NAEYC provides guidelines for appropriate teaching strategies, curriculum, and assessments for children in preschool through third grade. NAEYC promotes comprehensive training opportunities, high professional standards, and equitable compensation and working conditions so that qualified early childhood educators will stay and grow in the early childhood profession. The NAEYC annual conference is one of the largest educational meetings in the nation, bringing together 25,000 people each year for more than 1,000 seminars, workshops and other professional development opportunities.

NAEYC is a leading publisher and distributor of a wide range of books, videos, and other professional resources to help early childhood teachers and other professionals improve their knowledge and skills. NAEYC also publishes Young Children, an award-winning journal that combines the latest in early childhood research, theory and practice, with a readership of more than 250,000. The association also publishes the highly respected Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

To increase understanding and support for high-quality early childhood education. NAEYC works among policymakers and the public through its education, advocacy, and public awareness activities. NAEYC also sponsors the Week of the Young Child each spring to focus public attention on the rights and needs of young children.

A board of directors elected by the membership governs the association, and the executive director, responsible for the association's administration and management, sits on the board as an ex officio member. NAEYC is a private membership organization, supported primarily through fees for products and services. The association also accepts philanthropic support for projects that are aligned with its mission and goals and that further its strategic objectives.

In 1926 Patty Smith Hill and Lois Meek Stolz founded the NAEYC's precursor, National Association for Nursery Education, out of their concern about the proliferation of educational programs for preschool children staffed by individuals without adequate knowledge about child development and effective strategies for teaching young children. NANE was maintained primarily through the efforts of stalwart volunteers, who believed deeply in the association's mission. In the early 1960s a headquarters office was established in Washington, D.C., when the association was reorganized as the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The naming of a full-time executive director in the mid-1960s coincided with the creation of the federal Head Start program, designed to provide educational and social enrichment to preschool children living in poverty. Head Start not only focused public attention on the importance of early education, but also nurtured the early childhood profession by providing numerous opportunities for careers in teaching, program administration, and professional preparation and development.

NAEYC continued to grow in size and scope in the 1970s and 1980s, reaching a membership of 45,000 by 1985. That year, the Association created the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs to accredit childcare centers, preschools, kindergartens, and before-school and after-school programs, again responding to the tremendous growth in the number of children attending preschool and childcare programs. Between 1985 and 2001, the association's membership climbed to more than 100,000, as more than 8,000 early childhood programs achieved accreditation and thousands more enrolled in the process.

By 2001, NAEYC completed major restructuring efforts to revitalize its membership and affiliate structure and to reinvent its accreditation process to meet the challenges of successful growth. In the early twenty-first century, NAEYC is poised for continued growth and success in promoting excellence in early childhood education for all young children and their families.


SMITH, MARILYN M., ed. 2001. NAEYC at 75: Reflections of the Past; Challenges for the Future. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.




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