Better educational outcomes for kids statewide, is the aim of a new program being offered by Thread, a childcare resource and referral network.Listen Now Learn and Grow is the states QRIS (Quality Recognition and Improvement System) which improves and evaluates childcare quality. (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)Thread is a non profit funded by the department of Health and Social Services and community donations. Their program Learn & Grow, Alaska’s Quality Recognition and Improvement System, is designed to evaluate and increase the quality of childcare centers.Of the estimated 456 licensed childcare centers statewide, 53 have signed up for the Learn & Grow Process in communities like Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Ketchikan. While there are state requirements that all childcare centers must meet to be licensed, Learn & Grow director Meghan Johnson views her program as a next step for centers to increase their standards in education and care.“So the idea is to funnel resources into the programs as they achieve certain levels of quality, so that they have that funding to continue it,” Johnson said. “Cause it costs money to pay their teachers a higher wage. It costs money to send them to school for professional development. It costs money for materials and resources in the classroom.”Learn & Grow measures the quality and growth of each participating childcare center in levels. Level 1 requires that all workers in a childcare center be enrolled in the Learn & Grow program, and administrators must take a training course. Johnson says about 22% of the centers have already met that benchmark. Level 2 requires more administrative training in business operations such as budgeting and human resources as well as child development training.Learn & Grow program director Meghan Johnson discusses the yearly goals and achievements of the program to a crowd of educators at the Thread building in Anchorage (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)Having already met their goal of signing up 10% of eligible childcare centers in Learn & Grow, the next step is to ensure that certain numbers of those centers reach Level 1 and Level 2 benchmarks within Learn & Grow.“We said that we wanted of those participating programs, that about 80% of them would achieve a Level 1 – that first level of quality,” Johnson said. “And then we said about 20% would achieve Level 2. So 20% requires the administrators to acquire credentials. It’s really where we require most of the training.”Johnson says through partnerships with government and communities, Learn & Grow is on track to meet and surpass their yearly fiscal goals for quality childcare in the state.