Originally funded by a federal grant in 1980, Co-Teach is an inclusive preschool program at the Institute for Educational Research and Service (IERS) that serves children ages 3 through 5 with diverse abilities and their families. Over the past 30 years, over a thousand children have “graduated” from Co-Teach. We believe children learn best in a setting that includes children of all abilities; therefore, Co-Teach includes both students who have diagnosed disabilities and those who do not.
The mission of Co-Teach is to offer children a stimulating, playful first school experience. We value diverse abilities, cultural backgrounds, and family structures and believe that all children and families' unique histories and experiences matter. Co-Teach embraces a collaborative teaching model that promotes positive relationships while guiding children in their development of healthy behaviors and social emotional competence.
Since its inception in 1980, Co-Teach has been devoted to providing high-quality, inclusive education services to young children with diverse abilities because we recognize the benefits of early intervention to children, families and communities. Furthermore, we understand that early childhood experiences have a significant impact on children’s overall development and learning.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC, is the nation’s leading organization of early childhood professionals and represents the mark of quality in early childhood education. The purpose of NAEYC is to set professional standards for early childhood education that help families identify high-quality programs, and to continuously develop resources based on the latest research which support program improvement efforts. In 2005, NAEYC approved and adopted new, more rigorous standards and accreditation criteria, which are a significant achievement for the early childhood profession and the children and families who receive services from NAEYC-accredited programs. The NAEYC accreditation system is a voluntary system designed to set the national standard for program excellence and to improve program accountability for families.
In the spring of 2008, Co-Teach received NAEYC Accreditation. To achieve this, Co-Teach volunteered to engage in an extensive, multi-year self-study process which was comprised of four-steps: 1) Enrollment – programs go through a self-assessment; 2) Application – programs submit an application and determine a timeframe for completing a formal self-assessment report; 3) Candidacy – fundamental licensing, staffing, health, and safety requirements must be met by all programs; and 4) On-Site Visit – observation of the program by NAEYC assessors determines if the program meets all newly adopted ten NAEYC standards, the most robust and rigorous national standards to date in the areas of early childhood education, health, and safety.
To earn NAEYC Accreditation, Co-Teach met the ten NAEYC Early Childhood Program Standards and more than 400 related Accreditation Criteria. The ten standards of high-quality early childhood education are:
1) Promote positive relationships for all children and adults to encourage each child’s sense of individual worth.
2) Implement a curriculum that fosters all areas of child development: cognitive, emotional, language, physical and social.
3) Use developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate and effective teaching approaches.
4) Provide ongoing assessments of a child’s learning and development and communicate the child’s progress to the family.
5) Promote the nutrition and health of children and protect children and staff from injury and illness.
6) Employ a teaching staff that has the educational qualifications, knowledge, and professional commitment necessary to promote children’s learning and development and to support families’ diverse needs and interests.
7) Establish and maintain collaborative relationships with each child’s family.
8) Establish relationships with and use the resources of the community to support the achievement of program goals.
9) Provide a safe and healthy physical environment.
10) Implement strong personnel, fiscal, and program management policies so that all children, families, and staff have high-quality experiences.
NAEYC Accreditation demonstrates a commitment, on behalf of Co-Teach teachers and administration, to high-quality early childhood education. We volunteered to engage in the NAEYC self-study process because we are committed to improving our services every year to children and families. The self-study and Accreditation process gives us the opportunity to routinely monitor our program’s performance and progress; to acknowledge and celebrate what our program is doing well; and to identify areas where we could be doing even better. By engaging in self-study, and pursuing and maintaining NAEYC Accreditation, we all benefit from creating a stronger and more committed team of teachers, administrators, and families who work together to continually improve program quality.
Co-Teach is licensed by the State of Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services - Quality Assurance Division, Child Care Licensing. Co-Teach adheres to the regulations and requirements set forth by the licensing agency. It is noteworthy that Co-Teach has been recognized to have consistently met the licensing standards set forth by the state, and has been awarded an extended license due to its strict adherence to licensing requirements.