July 26, 2017

SMC First Southern California Community College to Get National Accreditation for Early Childhood Education Degrees

A child
“Baby Day” during an Early Childhood Education practicum class at Santa Monica College. SMC has become the first community college in Southern California—and only the second in the state—to receive accreditation for its Associate of Science degrees in Early Childhood Education from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).
Gary Huff
Santa Monica College Early Childhood Education professor Gary Huff interacts with a child during a practicum class as students observe.

SANTA MONICA, CA—Santa Monica College (SMC) has become the first community college in Southern California—and only the second in the state—to receive national accreditation for its Associate of Science degrees in Early Childhood Education/Career as well as its Associate in Science for Transfer degree in Early Childhood Education, which satisfies most of the California State University lower-division requirements and offers students priority admissions consideration at select CSU campuses.

After a rigorous process of self-review and site visits by out-of-state experts that began about a year ago, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC)—the foremost professional association for the early childhood education field—has awarded Santa Monica College full accreditation. SMC is one of 195 two- and four-year institutions nationwide that are accredited.

The approval report cited strength in faculty who are “committed to student success and involved in the early childhood profession; program responsiveness and innovation to address the needs of the community; and the program’s promotion of both career and transfer pathways.” The report further commended SMC’s program “for its many strengths revealed through the accreditation process and beyond.”

SMC ECE Professor Gary Huff says accreditation is an honor that adds a measure of validation both to the department and for students. “It also means that we are deeply committed to a continual process of self-study and improvement of our program based on a set of national standards for excellence,” he said. “Accreditation supports our goal to provide the highest quality teacher education experience, preparing SMC students for success in rewarding careers working with young children and their families.”

Dr. Kathryn E. Jeffery, SMC Superintendent/President added that the accreditation is “a testament to the dedication and hard work of Santa Monica College faculty, who are passionate, progressive, and among the most highly qualified in the field.”

Demand for professionally trained employees in the child development field is on the rise, and research studies by RAND and the Brookings Institution have found that early education, particularly before age 5, has long-term benefits, especially for economically disadvantaged students and dual-language learners.

SMC’s Early Childhood Education programs are designed to meet lower division education and licensing needs of students planning a career or currently working with children from birth to approximately 8 years of age in early childhood settings.

“The goal of our program,” said Laura Manson-Weingarten, SMC ECE Department Chair, “is to help our students understand child growth and development and to experience what that looks like in a classroom setting.”

Upon graduation, students are qualified to work in the pre-school and infant-toddler fields or to go deeper into their studies, transferring to four-year programs in elementary and special education, child psychology, counseling and other child-focused occupations.

“I’m over the moon about this,” said Manson-Weingarten. “I’ve been wanting accreditation for a long while. It elevates what we’re already doing and validates our philosophy of being reflective, looking at what we’re doing well and what areas we can improve upon, both as practitioners and in the classroom with our students.”

In addition to the two newly-accredited Associate of Science degrees, Santa Monica College also offers an Early Intervention Assistant Associate Degree and Certificate of Achievement; an Infant and Toddler Studies Associate Degree and Certificate of Achievement; a Department Certificate in ECE (CORE) which prepares students to obtain an Associate Teacher permit; and a new Transitional Kindergarten certificate. To find out more about these programs, please visit www.smc.edu/ece or call (310) 434-8109.

Santa Monica College is the leader among California’s 114 community colleges in transfers to the University of California, USC, and Loyola Marymount University. SMC also offers 110 career-focused degrees and certificates—in fields such as Early Childhood Education, Game Design, Animation, Film Production, Accounting, and many more—which prepare students for direct entry into the job market or for transfer.