The Northwest Institute of Research (NWIR) was incorporated as a 501(c) (3) organization in 1975. Its mission and function during the past three decades has evolved, in keeping with the changing funding streams and employee skill set.
When initially established, NWIR conducted applied social science research for a number of agencies, primarily in the evaluation and organizational development area. During the mid-80s through the late 90s, NWIR also maintained a training program for displaced workers, working under contract with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.
For several years, from 1999 through 2005, NWIR was not active, but in 2005, with a new grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Public Welfare, we had a renewed purpose and direction with respect to the design and operation of a program related to workforce development.
Currently, NWIR’s primary function is to administer the NW Regional Key, which is funded through the grant received from the Office of Child Development and Early Learning at the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare and Department of Education (see www.nwregionalkey.org ). This funding includes an allocation from the federal Child Care Development Fund along with state dollars aimed at improving the quality of early care and education. Ultimately, the purpose of this statewide program is to improve the outcomes for young children as they prepare for school. The Regional Keys (there are six in total geographically dispersed across Pennsylvania) have two major components:
• A component that awards STAR levels to early care and education facilities based on meeting established standards of best practice.
• A component of technical assistance, professional development and grant awards, which provides the knowledge, skills and financial assistance to achieve the STAR levels.