Posted on February 16, 2021 by

By Stephanie Hamilton

earlylearning_seal-color_print.png The College of Education and Human Development’s Master of Arts in Early Childhood and Elementary Education program recently received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). NAEYC is the sole accreditor of early childhood degree programs in the United States. UTSA’s Master of Arts in Early Childhood and Elementary Education degree is one of two master’s programs in the country as well as the only master’s program in Texas to receive accreditation from NAEYC.

“It gives us some clout and gives us kind of like a badge of honor,” said Dr. Rica Ramírez, Assistant Professor in the Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching Department.

Dr. Ramírez has been involved in efforts to obtain NAEYC accreditation. “We’ve been working really hard to get accredited by NAEYC,” she said. “We strive for excellence in all of our coursework. Through lots of reviewals and in-depth talks with NAEYC, we got the stamp of accreditation.”

The accreditation process involves an in-depth review of the early childhood higher education program, as described by the NAEYC website: “Eligible programs engage in self-study by working with stakeholders to reflect on the program's strengths and areas for improvement, collect data, and implement changes. Programs host a team of peer reviewers for a three-day site visit, and findings are shared with the Commission, the decision-making body that makes the final accreditation decision.”

During this process, the early childhood higher education program must meet seven standards: Promoting Childhood Development and Learning; Building Family and Community Relationships; Observing, Documenting, and Assessing to Support Young Children and Families; Using Developmentally Effective Approaches; Using Content Knowledge to Build Meaningful Curriculum; Becoming a Professional; and Early Childhood Field Experiences.  

Ramírez explains that not only does UTSA benefit from this accreditation, but so do students and families in San Antonio. “UTSA is unique in that it's kind of like a neighboring university where it's a commuter university. Most people that take our courses work here in the community. They work here with the families. Therefore, it's kind of like a trickle-down effect,” she said. “We are accredited so we have the standard of excellence and through that standard of excellence we're transmitting that to our students, and then it's transmitted to the students that they're teaching and then the families that they're impacting in the community in general. So I believe the greater San Antonio is benefitting, but I think we all are benefitting from being accredited by NAEYC.”

The NAEYC accreditation for a master’s program is rather new. While NAEYC previously only accredited early childhood associate degree programs, in 2016, they expanded to include baccalaureate and master's degree programs. Ramírez said, “We are one of the first to be accredited as a master's program which also goes to show that we're doing something right.”