Western’s Early Childhood Education earns state’s first NAEYC accreditation for bachelor’s program

 The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) lauds Bellingham and Bremerton-based program for excellence in student success, teacher candidate development and enabling community-based field experience

Bellingham / Bremerton, WA — Western Washington University’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, part of WWU’s Woodring College of Education, has earned accreditation from The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). 

Western now offers one of just two bachelor-level ECE degree programs on the West Coast – and the only one in Washington and Oregon – that have passed NAEYC’s rigorous accreditation process. Western was  one of four programs in the country to receive accreditation from NAEYC in its recent round. 

“The NAEYC is among the most respected national accreditation agencies for early childhood learning programs, and we are so proud that our program has earned its accreditation after a thorough and rigorous review,” said Acting ECE Academic Program Director, Tasha Laman, who is based in Bremerton.

NAEYC accreditors recognized the uniqueness of the program’s strengths including ECE’s cohort model and embedded field-based courses in community and school settings which include coaching with faculty and teachers to support teacher candidate development.  

The NAEYC team also commended the personalized holistic advising that the ECE faculty employ to support student success throughout the program.   

The multi-year accreditation process involves preparing and submitting a self-study report and culminates in a multi-day site visit from a NAEYC peer review team. During the site visit in 2023, evaluators observed classes at Western and met with WWU students, faculty, staff and administrators, along with directors of childcare centers and elementary schools that are longtime partners of WWU’s Early Childhood Education Program.

“NAEYC Accreditation of Early Childhood Higher Education Programs is a hallmark of quality assurance for the early childhood preparation profession,” said Mary Harrill, senior director of Higher Education at NAEYC. “We congratulate all of the programs that have recently achieved accreditation. Their dedication to program improvement, to the students they serve, and to the early learning settings in which their graduates will work is to be commended.” 

From Bellingham to Bremerton 

Kevin Roxas, dean of Woodring College at WWU said, “I cannot emphasize enough the thoughtfulness embedded in the curriculum, the authentic partnerships fostering genuine learning experiences for both young and older students alongside professionals, the integration of families and communities in the educational process, and the self-study commitment that contributes to continuous improvement. Our ECE faculty team is diverse by background, expertise, and lived experience and they worked together tremendously as a team across our locations in Bellingham and Bremerton, at schools across Washington, and with their partners.” 

While the Bellingham program is well established, the Bremerton Program that started in 2019 is already developing strong relationships with school and community partners and building a strong local recruitment network. 

Eileen Hughes and Marilyn Chu, who are now Professor Emerita, are credited by the Woodring faculty for doing the foundational work for the current ECE faculty to build on and to prepare for the rigorous accreditation process.  

Woodring colleagues also credit the Academic Program Director, Anna Lees and Dr. Meilan Jin as central to the ECE Program's recognition and to Woodring's strong reputation.  

Further recognition 

WWU’s ECE program was also featured as a model of excellence in the recently published "Centering Equity in Teacher Education Evaluation: From Principles to Transformative Enactment" article in the Journal of Teacher Education (Cochran-Smith & Reagan, 2022).   

“Both the accreditation from NAEYC and the spotlighting of our program by one of the leading scholars in teacher education and in one of the most prestigious journals in teacher education speaks to the excellence of this faculty’s work and the strong national early childhood education model they’ve developed,” said Roxas. 

Media Contact

Jonathan Higgins, WWU Communications Director, Jonathan.Higgins@wwu.edu