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Stepping Stones Preschool Earns Prestigious NAEYC Accreditation

By Stepping Stones Museum for Children

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NORWALK, CT - Stepping Stones Museum for Children in Norwalk is jumping to the head of the class with a major achievement. Its innovative Early Language and Literacy Initiative (ELLI) program at the museum and in the Norwalk Public School system have received accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)—the world's largest organization working on behalf of young children. All four sites received extremely high marks – over 100%!

“Stepping Stones has always been committed to creating the highest quality educational opportunities for young children,” stated Rhonda Kiest, President and CEO of the award-winning museum. “It is an incredible accomplishment to have our program recognized by NAEYC. Now we want to broaden the scope of ELLI to reach even younger children in order to close the achievement gap in Connecticut.”

The Early Language and Literacy Initiative (ELLI) is an evidence-based approach to early childhood education that embeds language, literacy and 21st century skill building activities within an interdisciplinary mix of science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) to close the achievement gap for young children. ELLI programs playfully immerse and engage ELLI students through interconnected concepts, or BIG IDEAS, that enhance their understanding of the world. ELLI in Norwalk is the joint collaboration of Stepping Stones Museum for Children, Norwalk Public Schools and Literacy How, an organization dedicated to the application of early literacy research. The Norwalk Public School classrooms are open to children ages 3 – 5 and are partially funded with School Readiness funds. The ELLI Lab School is not funded with School Readiness funds.

There are currently four ELLI classroom sites in Norwalk that have earned NAEYC Accreditation:

The ELLI Lab School at Stepping Stones Museum for Children
ELLI classroom at Fox Run Elementary School in Norwalk
ELLI classroom at Tracey Elementary School in Norwalk
ELLI classroom at Naramake Elementary School in Norwalk

NAEYC Accreditation is a rigorous and transformative quality-improvement system that uses a set of 10 research-based standards to collaborate with early education programs to recognize and drive quality-improvement in high-quality early learning environments. Less than 10 percent of all child care centers, preschools, and kindergartens nationally achieve this recognition.

In the 30 years since NAEYC Accreditation was established, it has become a widely recognized sign of high-quality early childhood education. More than 7,000 programs are currently accredited by NAEYC. For more information about NAEYC Accreditation, visit the NAEYC website. To earn NAEYC Accreditation, the ELLI Lab School and three Norwalk Public School classrooms went through an extensive self-study and quality-improvement process, followed by an on-site visit by NAEYC Assessors to verify and ensure that the program met each of the ten program standards, and hundreds of corresponding individual criteria. NAEYC-accredited programs are always prepared for unannounced quality-assurance visits during their accreditation term, which lasts for five years.

“NAEYC-Accredited programs bring our definitions of excellence for early childhood education to life each day,” said Kristen Johnson, senior director of Early Learning Program Accreditation at NAEYC. “Earning NAEYC Accreditation makes Stepping Stones Museum for Children an exemplar of good practice for families and the entire community.”

“We will take our learnings from our recent NAEYC accreditation process as the ELLI program continues to grow. We are also thrilled to announce a NEW toddler program at the Lab School at Stepping Stones, opening this fall,” adds Kiest.

The toddler program is currently accepting applications. Space is limited. To schedule a visit or for more information, email sarra@steppingstonesmuseum.org, call 203 899 0606, ext. 216 or visit www.steppingstonesmuseum.org/elli.

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