Attempting one accreditation is not to be taken lightly, but intertwining the inner workings of two accrediting bodies is not for the faint of heart, and this is exactly what we are doing at Leap Academy Madison at the moment. The following is a brief synopsis of where we are at with each process and what our next steps are.
In November, we finished our first round of observations for City of Madison Accreditation. You might wonder, why choose City of Madison accreditation when you are already accredited by the Association of Early Learning Leaders? City of Madison Accreditation is an ongoing process that commits our center to quality practices and interventions with quite intensive year-round involvement from an Accreditation Specialist; ours is Connie Williams. Being accredited by this body allows us to accept a stipend for families who are low-income yet don’t qualify for traditional subsidies through Wisconsin. The benefits of continued support will help us to continue on a path of quality improvement.
Between September-November, each of our rooms had an initial teaching observation and a meeting with feedback on strengths and areas for continuous growth. Some of the areas highlighted included: ways to connect with children who might be struggling, ways to improve our classroom environments, and a plan to increase our health and safety standards to go above and beyond the normal level of the state of Wisconsin Department of Children and Families’ standards. Additionally, we will need to update a few of our center-wide policies in the near future.
After this initial step, we became eligible for a grant to help move us towards accreditation. Typical grants are $1,000-$2,000. However, because we serve a larger population of students that qualify for subsidized care, we were awarded a $10,000 grant. This grant was spent on environmental improvements including equipment for our rooms. The next step in our process will be a strategic planning meeting between our Accreditor and our Leadership Team to decide how we will address the next steps in the process, including training plans. For our teachers, the next steps will include a 10-hour observation in each room.
And now, the second accreditation body: the Association of Early Learning Leaders. This is the body that currently accredits the center. Upon purchasing an accredited center, the accreditation extends one year. We submitted paperwork for a re-accreditation visit through this body in August. That meant, very similarly, that each room needed to fill out a teaching observation packet, be observed by our Curriculum Director, meet afterwards and fill out a second teaching observation packet, and come up with an action plan to meet any items that the team felt were missing. You will see Ms. Heidi Gaugert (Curriculum Director) working diligently with our teaching staff and in our rooms over the next few weeks, as our validation visit is scheduled for sometime January 6th-January 17th. We will likely not know the outcome of the validation visit for several weeks after the event.
As I mentioned, this process is not for the faint of heart. I am proud of our team for having the self-reflection skills needed to accept feedback and commit to a quality improvement plan. We are thankful for the experts who have shared their time in assisting us in improving our program. Lastly, I am very, very proud to tell you, that through our work with the City of Madison Accreditation, we have been nominated as one of two centers in the city of Madison to become a Wisconsin Pyramid Model training site. This honor is not taken lightly, as there are many very great centers in Madison.
Thank you for your continued support of our center.