The Association for Childhood Education International is an organization of teachers, parents, and other adults interested in promoting good educational practices for children from infancy through early adolescence. Maintaining a staff of thirteen, the Association is headquartered in Wheaton, Maryland, and currently has a membership of 13,000, with thirty-one state groups and 153 local groups. Established in 1892 as the International Kindergarten Union, the Association for Childhood Education International is the oldest professional association of its type in the United States.
On July 15, 1892, a group of kindergarten teachers and other interested persons gathered at the Baptist Church in Saratoga Springs, New York, to form the International Kindergarten Union. The educators sought to consolidate the gains made in early childhood education since the pioneering work of Friedrich Froebel, father of the kindergarten concept, in Germany during the 1820s and 1830s. They also planned collective action to promote kindergarten education at a time when traditional philanthropic support was dwindling while the public education establishment still resisted the concept of the kindergarten. The stated aims of the Union were "to gather and disseminate knowledge of the kindergarten movement throughout the world, to bring into active cooperation all kindergarten interests, to promote the establishment of kindergartens, and to elevate the standard of professional training" for kindergarten teachers. The Union acted to coordinate the efforts of local, regional, and national associations and to "collect, collate, and disseminate the valuable knowledge already attained, and to inspire greater and more intelligent efforts in the future."
The International Kindergarten Union was at first closely affiliated with the National Education Association and the National Council of Women. At the Denver meeting of the NEA in 1895, however, the International Kindergarten Union became completely independent with the decision to hold future meetings of the Union separately. The first meeting of the Union as an independent organization took place at Teachers College, New York City, in February 1896.
During the first three decades of the twentieth century, public school systems gradually absorbed kindergarten education. As this happened, the methods and objectives of kindergarten and primary education developed an increasing influence upon one another. Reflecting this growing relationship, the National Council of Primary Education (established 1916) adopted a new constitution on February 24, 1931, that joined it with the International Kindergarten Union under the name Association for Childhood Education. As a preliminary to that action, the Union had adopted the new constitution and name the previous year. The aim of unification was to "bring greatly enlarged and more forceful influence to bear in promoting progressive nursery school, kindergarten, and primary work throughout the country."
The ACE added "International" to its name at the Cincinnati meeting of 1946 as an indication of the Association's concern for children throughout the world, and particularly for the challenge of educational reconstruction in war zones. Activities of ACEI following the war centered on these challenges, with the Association sending play and curriculum materials, toys, and books for both teachers and children to liberated and occupied areas. ACEI also sponsored teachers from Norway, Germany, and Korea for study tours in the United States.
The Association was an early advocate of civil rights. In 1949, it denied requests from three state associations that each of those states have separate associations for blacks and whites with separate memberships in ACEI. In 1950, ACEI revised its "Guide for Groups Wishing to Extend Invitations to ACEI" to state that such an invitation must include an assurance that black members would have equal access to hotels, restaurants, and public transportation.
On April 18, 1952, the Executive Board of ACEI established a Headquarters Building Fund and, in 1955, appointed a Steering Committee for the project. In 1958, ACEI purchased land at Wisconsin Avenue and Quebec Street in Washington, D. C. Groundbreaking was held on May 24, 1959, and the Association dedicated the new building on August 14, 1960. In addition to administrative headquarters for ACEI, the building housed a Center for Childhood Education, a teaching and demonstration facility involving neighborhood children. The Center also included exhibition space and rooms for workshops and conferences. Changes in needs and resources necessitated a new facility, however, and in 1983-84, ACEI moved to its present headquarters in Wheaton, Maryland.
Currently, ACEI's goals are to promote the inherent rights, education, and well-being of all children in home, school, and community; to promote desirable conditions, programs, and practices for children from infancy through early adolescence; to raise the standard of preparation for teachers and others who are involved with the care and development of children; to encourage continuous professional growth of educators; to bring into active cooperation all individuals and groups concerned with children; and to inform the public of the needs of children and the ways in which various programs must be adjusted to fit those needs and rights.
In order to meet these goals, ACEI conducts workshops and travel/study tours abroad and offers awards for excellence in education. They also maintain liaison with government agencies, cooperating organizations, teaching institutions, and manufacturers and designers of materials and equipment for children. In addition to publishing books and pamphlets on a variety of subjects and bibliographies of children's literature, ACEI produces the ACEI Exchange monthly, Childhood Education five times per year, and the Journal of Research in Childhood Education biennially.