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National Program Standards

Crosswalk Tool


The National Center on Early Childhood Quality Assurance (ECQA Center) is pleased to provide this online program standards crosswalk tool that is prepopulated with national early childhood program standards (e.g., Head Start, accreditation, Caring for our Children).  This tool is designed to help States that are developing and aligning program standards for licensing, quality rating and improvement systems, and/or prekindergarten programs, to search and compare the content of several sets of national standards.

Program standards describe the expected structure and practices of early care and education settings and often represent definitions of quality that aim to have a positive impact on children’s learning and development. Standards are just one element of a system for continuous program quality improvement. Standards must work in concert with rigorous program assessment and monitoring processes, supports for programs seeking to improve quality (e.g., improvement plans, technical assistance, professional development, etc.), meaningful incentives for improvement, and mechanisms to inform consumers and the public about quality improvement efforts and achievements.

The early care and education field has multiple sets of program standards, and the content of those standards varies widely. States seeking to develop quality improvement systems often engage in a process to review and align the content of various program standards available in the field. Early care and education providers are better able to understand the path to high quality care when the various standards they must meet have similar categories of standards and use consistent terminology. This National Program Standards Crosswalk Tool was developed to help States and save them time and money by making several sets of national standards available in one online database with an easy-to-use search mechanism.

Statement of Intended Use

The National Program Standards Crosswalk Tool was developed for state policy makers interested in aligning state and national program standards. It is not intended as a guide for programs seeking to meet these standards or achieve accreditation. The accreditation standards included in this tool are from copyrighted materials. Users must contact the agencies and organizations that administer those standards to receive a complete set of the standards and additional guidance. Contact information is available in the About the Standards section.

To find and view comparable standards using the Crosswalk tool, follow these four steps:


Step 1 - Choose Topics:

In this crosswalk tool, users can view program standards across the following nine topic areas and several subtopic areas. These general topic areas were chosen after reviewing the various ways States, agencies, and organizations categorize program standards. They are not meant to suggest any particular framework for categorizing standards.

  1. Children with Special Needs
  2. Eligibility, Recruitment & Transition
  3. Family & Community Partnerships
  4. Health & Safety
  5. Learning Environment, Teaching Practices, & Curriculum
  1. Nutrition
  2. Personnel Management & Human Resources
  3. Program Administration
  4. Transportation

The first step in the process involves choosing topics and subtopics for your crosswalk. Click your mouse at each Topic and a list of Subtopics will appear. Use your mouse to check the box(es) to select Subtopics. There is no limit on how many Topics and Subtopics can be chosen.

Once you have selected all applicable Topics and Subtopics, scroll down the page and click the Select Topics button to move on to step 2.


Step 1 - Keyword Search:

You may also search the standards by entering a keyword in the Search Keyword box. After entering a search term, click Search to move on to step 2.


Step 2 - Review Standards Policies:

When you click the Select Topics button from either choosing topics and subtopics or the Search button for a keyword search, a table will appear below that shows all of your selections with counts of the indicators found for each of the Standards.

This table provides an overview of how many indicators are in the standards that address the topics you have chosen and can be used to determine whether to include particular standards in your crosswalk. For example, if the number “5” appears for a chosen subtopic in the Caring for Our Children (CFOC) standards column, that means there are five separate indicators in CFOC that address that subtopic and CFOC would be a good choice for your crosswalk. If there is a “0,” then there are no indicators and you would know not to choose those standards for your crosswalk.


Step 3 - Choose Standards to Compare:

Click box to the left of the Standard you would like to include in your crosswalk. You may only select up to three Standards for a search. Once you have selected up to three Standards, click on the Compare Standards button to view your results.

The following sets of national program standards where used to populate the crosswalk. The sources for the Standards are available in the About the Standards section.

  1. Child Care and Development Fund Final Rule (CCDF)
  2. Head Start Program Performance Standards (HSPPS)
  3. Department of Defense Instruction 6060.02 — Child Development Programs; and Department of Defense Effectiveness Rating and Improvement System Standards for Child Care Programs (DOD)
  4. Caring for Our Children: National Health and Safety Performance Standards: Guidelines for Early Care and Education Programs, 3rd Edition; and Stepping Stones to Caring for Our Children, 3rd Edition (CFOC)
  5. Caring for Our Children Basics: Health and Safety Foundations for Early Care and Education (CFOCB)
  6. National Association for the Education of Young Children Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NAEYC)
  7. Council on Accreditation After School Program Standards (COA-AS)
  8. National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs — Components of Accreditation Standards (NAC)
  9. National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA)
  10. National Association for Family Child Care, Quality Standards for NAFCC Accreditation, Fourth Edition (NAFCC)
  11. REACH Accreditation Manual for Early Education Stand-alone Programs, Association for Christian Schools International (ASCI)


Step 4 - Compare Standards:

Your results will list all of your selected Standards in a column format. Each Topic/Subtopic is separated by a break that displays the name of the Topic/Subtopic. To start a new search, click on the Back to Topics icon located in the upper right corner of the page. You may also access a Printer Friendly version of your data by clicking the Print Icon.

You can download the results of your search by clicking the Excel icon. A Microsoft Excel file will be generated that includes the standards from your search. Columns with the national standards cannot be edited, but there are empty columns for adding in your State’s licensing requirements and QRIS standards for comparison with national standards. This file can be saved on your computer for future use.