NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The SFA Early Childhood Lab is one of the first early childhood programs to earn accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, the nation's leading organization of early childhood professionals.

"We're proud to have earned the mark of quality from NAEYC and to be recognized for our commitment to reaching the highest professional standards," said Lori Harkness, director of the Early Childhood Lab. "NAEYC Accreditation lets families in our community know that children in our program are getting the best care and early learning experiences possible."

To earn NAEYC accreditation in the new system, the Early Childhood Lab went through an extensive self-study process, measuring the program and its services against the 10 new NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and more than 400 related accreditation criteria. The program received NAEYC accreditation after an on-site visit by NAEYC assessors to ensure the program meets all of the program standards. NAEYC-accredited programs also are subject to unannounced visits during the five-year accreditation period.

In the 20 years since NAEYC accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized sign of high-quality early childhood education. More than 11,000 programs serving 1 million young children are currently accredited by NAEYC, representing approximately 8 percent of all preschools and other early childhood programs. "The new NAEYC accreditation system raises the bar for preschools, child care centers and other early childhood programs," said Dr. Mark Ginsberg, executive director of NAEYC.

"The Early Childhood Lab's NAEYC accreditation is a sign that the lab is a leader in a national effort to invest in high-quality early childhood education, and to help give all children a better start."

SFA's new $30.8 million Education Research Center, which is scheduled to open in fall 2009, will house the Early Childhood Lab, the University Charter School and the SFA Department of Elementary Education.