The University of Maryland College of Education’s Center for Young Children (CYC) earned the highest possible rating for quality from the Maryland EXCELS program, which evaluates early childhood and public prekindergarten programs in the state. CYC received five of five possible checkmarks from the state quality rating and improvement system for its overall score.
In the Maryland EXCELS rating system, childcare organizations’ overall scores are equal to the lowest rating received for a subcategory; therefore, CYC’s top score reflects that it earned the highest rating for licensing and compliance, staff qualifications and professional development, accreditation and rating scales, developmentally appropriate learning and practices, and administrative policies and practices. In addition, the Center, which is part of the Department of Human Development and Quantitative Methodology, was recognized for its accomplishments in asthma friendly child care, health and wellness, cultural and linguistic competency, eco-friendly achievement, and as an accredited program.
The Maryland EXCELS program is designed to help parents and guardians make informed choices on early childcare, as well as to help providers understand how to improve the care they provide children. For CYC, the comprehensive evaluation process took two years to complete and the process required a certain percentage of its teachers, all of whom have bachelor’s or master’s degrees in early childhood or a related field, to become credentialed through the state.
“We are unique among Maryland childcare centers in that we are considered a university-based preschool and kindergarten,” said Mona Leigh Guha, director of the CYC. “Our partnership with the university is distinct, as we educate children, support preservice and in-service teachers, and research activities.”
The curriculum at CYC is also atypical, as the Center educates through project-based learning and emergent curriculum, which necessitated significant effort by CYC to get its curriculum approved by the Maryland State Department of Education in order to be accepted by Maryland EXCELS.
“With project-based learning, children and teachers choose a topic to investigate, which are concrete and relevant to the lives of young children,” explained Leslie C. Oppenheimer, curriculum & enrollment coordinator for CYC. “The children share information they already know and ask questions they don’t know and want to learn, while the teachers provide experiences and experts to help answer the questions that arise.”
The CYC, which began in 1948 and has a lengthy waiting list, consists of approximately 110 children in six classrooms, four of which are full-time preschool programs, one is a part-time preschool program, and one is a kindergarten class. In addition to 20 full-time CYC staff, 50 to 60 undergraduates work at the Center in a given semester, helping to enrich both the children’s learning and the education of COE students.
In addition to receiving the top rating from Maryland EXCELS, CYC is a certified green school and is accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.