TIPS COMPILED FROM NAEYC'S MOST ACTIVE VALIDATORS
NAEYC Annual Conference
November 6, 2003
Melissa Werner, Ph.D.
Please note: This data
was collected from
some of NAEYC Academy's most experienced
validators. It gives their perspective on the Accreditation process.
These suggestions are
not intended to add tasks or to reinterpret criteria. Remember only
Academy staff can
interpret criteria. Programs should use NAEYC's Guide to
Accreditation and Accreditation Criteria and
EXPERIENCED VALIDATORS SURVEY
What should validators do to prepare for the validation visit?
Review the Program Description to get a "feel" for and knowledge of the program, it is important to review the Program Description when you get it, so issues can be clarified then, not the night before the visit.
Review the NAEYC Procedures, Chapter 8 of the Guide and call the Academy to clarify any issues.
Review the Validator training materials. Do you have enough observation books?
Review the Guide to Accreditation and Accreditation Criteria and Procedures for:
tasks and time lines decision rules
list of documents items needed from staff and child files
Review Section 8, How to Prepare for the Validation Visit
"I really look for the patterns that this center has so that I can get a feel for the center and go there feeling comfortable and as knowledgeable as one might be in a new setting."
Center profile Study organization and structure
Staff qualifications Number of classrooms
Staffing pattern Ages of children
Percentages for questionnaires All materials complete
Discuss with the Director - in a warm and friendly phone call:
Call should establish rapport for validation visit.
Program sponsorship if unfamiliar (military, campus, Head Start)
perception of validator role (especially for a first visit)
Changes since the Program Description
was sent to the Academy, especially if the changes resulted in
Questions from your review of materials
Arrival time, need for time to interview teachers, time available for the exit interview
Access to and location of files
Remind the director that the visit could last all day and into the evening
Contact your co-validator regarding
Discuss Accreditation system familiarity Task preferences for Validation day
Plan for day, get acquainted Calls to the program, who will call
Detailed directions, parking, and close by accommodations; a map is helpful
After hours / emergency phone numbers for validators and/or the center
Special issues or events (last day of school, special field trip)
Survival kit of post-its, pens, white out, calculator, note cards, highlighter
What can directors do to prepare for the validation day?
Prior to the visit - All validators love centers that are prepared!
Assemble and label documents in one place with the name and criterion number
If the center has waited a long time for a visit, refresh the files to make sure they reflect the current situation.
Remind staff of the language of the observation instrument so if a validator asks a teacher: “Tell me what you do in your classroom to foster positive identity or encourage pro-social behavior?”, the teacher will be comfortable answering the question.
Keep a copy of the Program Description
For large centers, mark the classrooms on a site map (use Program Description names)
Arrange a place for validators to work; nice if it is private, necessary if there are two validators
Assemble classroom schedules (best times to observe), revised list of ages of children in each class (oldest, youngest)
Prepare Program Description revisions if there are new staff or if classrooms have changed
Have an enrollment list and a staff list to assist in a random review of files
Make sure your staff files are up to date: resume, transcript, training, evaluation, TB, emergency contact, references pediatric, First Aid, CPR/choking, level of education
Review the children’s files: physical, immunization, emergency contact and pick-up information, health history, medical emergency plan, and evaluation
If you won’t be not present when the validator arrives, designate a person to greet/tour the validator
Prepare the Staff:
If the staff have been waiting some time for the visit, or it is a new program year, you may need to "rekindle the flame" about why we are passionate about quality for children.
Review validator tasks (will go everywhere, may not observe all rooms, will observe for an hour)
Review the validator role (does not make decisions, will not give feedback, is not a consultant)
Plan time for staff interviews about unobserved items; explain interviews are not negative
Remind staff how much has been done to get to this day and that their capabilities will show
Plan a normal day; don’t include many new activities. It’s realistic to see items from the Program Description
Are staff familiar with items in Classroom Observation?
During the visit
Relax, be proud, be confident (and nervous); this is your day, set the tone for the staff to relax
Be available, carry on normal routines
Be frank about unusual circumstances; validators know misbehavior happens.
If the process has been one of real self-evaluation involving the whole team, the preparation will have been done. The program will be 'living the criteria' and the visit will provide an opportunity to demonstrate this to an observer."
The initial meeting and tour - Director
Introduce all staff present, use their names, have name tags; have a map for large centers
Be relaxed, confident, cordial; first impressions set the stage
Review availability during day; plan for teachers' interview time after observation
Point out extra supplies/resource areas, first aid supplies, locked cleaning supplies, extra clothes, fire extinguishers, adult bathrooms
Explain any unusual circumstances (soft toys bagged due to lice, substitutes, etc.)
The initial meeting and tour - Validator
Be pleasant, relaxed, positive, nonthreatening and SMILE; first impressions set the stage
Be at ease, help director feel comfortable, set stage for working relationship
See 2/3 of the children present; note any special occurrences during day
Review the day's plan; review the role of the validator (will not give feedback, does not make decisions)
Be respectful, acknowledge hard work; be responsive; be aware of your body language
During Classroom Observations
Plan a normal day (the word normal was used by the majority of validators); be yourself
The Validator knows that children act like children; it is okay if they misbehave
Challenging child behavior is not the focus, it is how a teacher handles this competently
You know your children and how much preparation they need when strangers enter room
"If kids act out, that is your opportunity to show your ability to interact positively."
Most teachers will be interviewed after observation; this is to get additional information
Validators will talk little and write a lot; we have to complete the observation book
Remind teachers this is the same observation tool you and they have worked on before
Trust your teachers, do not hover; stay out of room unless you always go in
Arrange a time for the class to be covered during the teacher interviews
Remind all teachers that some will not be observed; this can be a let down
Is there a chair for the validator to sit?
Sit and be unobtrusive
The information describes the program from the child's perspective
"Try not to flirt with the toddlers."
Be very careful of your body language; a frown because you wrote something in the wrong place can be devastating to a teacher who thinks it reflects on her
Write what you see; be accurate, leave your biases at the door
Stay for an hour.
Thank the teacher when you are finished
Working with Staff and Parent Questionnaires
Staff questionnaires, discuss criteria at staff meeting, but rating is done by the individual
"If you need to, start a subtle IV drip of information for staff and parents so that they are informed and aware. This is not only good for the questionnaires but also for the program."
Do not let parent questionnaires leave the building (you won’t get them back!). Refreshments help get them done. "I usually get 99% this way (when sent home questionnaires returned are 15%)."
The questionnaires are part of the center's accreditation and quality information campaign
Accreditation is to ensure and recognize high quality; do not worry if one parent vents
Count, recount, get someone else to count; these are very hard to redo on visit day
"The biggest problem I have on-site is a miscount of the ratings."
Check accuracy early so that it can be fixed if incorrect; review accuracy again.
Verify samples: 4 items from 10% of parent questionnaires and 25% of staff questionnaires; 75% of questionnaire responses must agree to rate for 3 rating on validation decision
Handling and Reviewing Documents
Use the Academy Worksheets
Verify that staff qualifications and staffing patterns list the same people.
Documents need to be in one place; this demonstrates preparedness of the center
It is helpful if documents are marked with criteria numbers
Use reference pages in the Guide to Accreditation to prepare documents
Make a list of required items in child and staff files; put at front of the folder
If an agency has concerns with having documents accessible to validators, clear this with Academy staff before visit
"If all documents are in a simple crate and marked as to the questions they answer, I can guarantee you’ll pick up half an hour of time."
It’s easier to have tabbed sections of personnel policies with the required items marked than to spend time reading through the personnel manual
Directors should keep the following in mind: "As a validator you will not evaluate the source of evidence. You will simply verify that the document exists and that it contains the information that is requested in the criterion that is being evaluated": Validator Manual
Discussion of non-validated items
Director and Validator
Be clear that all parties understand the meaning of validated and non-validated
A non-validated item means a difference between what was observed that day and what was submitted on the program description
Verify all non-validated items; review decision rules for program size
Respond to all non-validated items; take the time to discuss and write specific comments
Do not be defensive and do not argue; agree to disagree
If there are major problems or discrepancies or a need for clarification call the Academy
We are on the same side, providing high quality programs for young children
Consider having another staff member with you during the exit interview
Be clear and concise in written responses to non-validated items
Take notes or make copies of the pages where explanations were written
Take time to compose your reply so the commission has a clear picture of the situation
In writing your response to non-validated items, read aloud to see if your response states your intent
It is important to give a full and complete reply for the commissioners to read
Restate the role of the validator: "The validator's role is to verify the accuracy of the Program Description that will be received by the Commission. Validators do not make accreditation decisions": Validator Manual
Give specifics of what was seen, not what was not seen; paint a word picture
Be professional, straightforward and non-threatening
Be tactful; state only what was observed, no more, no less
Help the director discuss and formulate the reply for the commission for non-validated items as the director’s response is developed
Additional comments for directors
"The director is the leadership of that program. The director must maintain a positive, courageous attitude about accreditation so that the staff and parents do the same"
This is a learning process, think of non-validated items as areas for future in-service development
Do not submit the program description until you are ready and have made the improvements and changes you want
If your program is consistently high quality it will show
Do not be afraid of a deferral; you can't flunk self-study
Talk to others who have been through the process
Go about your day as normally as possible
Additional comments for validators
Be objective; leave your biases at the door. Enjoy your visit; this is a great learning experience
Do not give advice or consultation
Comment only on what was observed, not what was not observed
"The validator's job is to be the eyes and ears for the academy and report what is seen on the day of the visit."
Smile and be gracious; enjoy your visit
Be organized, prepared and knowledgeable
This is a complex job and can be emotional
"Be flexible, avoid judging too fast or too harshly. Also, don't gloss over problems because you know they have worked hard."
Some Comments for Academy staff
I must admit that the validators who responded love the process, believe in it wholeheartedly and know it produces high quality for children.
"I continue to love doing the validation visits. When I walk in the door in the morning, I know this will be a growing program, one interested in quality. Validating is one of the best professional activities I have done in my 45 year career."
"Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be a part of a program which makes such a difference in the lives of children."
The 15 day window for Validation visits
When it is time for a validation visit, a program can exclude up to 6 days (within a 3-month-period) when it will be closed or does not want the visit to occur. (Visits will not be scheduled on national holidays or days of major religious observances.) The academy will then notify the program of a 15 business-day window during which the visit will take place. In addition, the program will be contacted on the business day before the visit.
A Final Word to the Wise
The system is in the process of major revisions. If you have always meant to do the self-study but haven't gotten around to it, DO NOT WAIT ANY LONGER. There will be a new system in 2005.
And please go to the web site and give feedback for the new suggested criteria. It is very important that the Academy hears from the field about the new and exciting proposed changes.
Melissa Werner, Ph.D.,
Community College, P.O. Box 734, Boaz, AL 35957,