The school district has been tracking the social and emotional development of Grade 4 students as well as physical health and well-being, connectedness to adults and peers, school experiences and use of after-school time.
The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) is a self-report questionnaire developed by the University of British Columbia’s Human Early Learning Partnership and School District 51 (SD51) has used the instrument to survey the five areas of development that are strongly linked to well-being, health and academic achievement.
“This is one of the very few authentic ways of getting the voice of students on what they feel are conditions or aspects of their life,” said Maxine Ruzicka, SD51 director of instruction.
The board of directors agreed to continue the study for an additional two years at the school board meeting on May 14, with costs the district $7,000 to participate.
The questionnaire is optional and for those children and families that wish to participate, it is completed during school hours; last year 88 per cent of the students participated.
“The results this year in the Boundary as a whole are somewhat improved, which speaks to the fact that different cohorts of kids have different make-ups,” said Ruzicka. “That is a really exciting thing for the district and our community partners (Boundary Integrated Services Team and Boundary Family and Individual Services Society) to look at as we go forward.”
The survey, which is analyzed and comprised into five key points of data, gives the district and its community partners a chance to address certain issues.
“It allows us to see where we need to put a little more emphasis in some of our services in terms of either education for kids or support for some kids or some strategies that we need to change,” said Michael Strukoff, superintendent of schools.
Ruzicka said one example of a new initiative is a voice-mentoring program; another is putting the Roots of Empathy program in all Kindergarten classes.
“We have done things like ensure that all of our (Kindergarten and elementary school) teachers are trained to do the friends program, which is an anxiety reduction, depression prevention program,” said the director of instruction.
Early Learning states: “The MDI gives children a voice, an opportunity to communicate to adults in schools and communities about what their experiences are inside and outside of school.”
Getting first-hand feedback from the Grade 4 students points to behavioural traits that are influenced by student’s home life.
“Why are we having kids not doing well (in school) and we are finding out that a lot of them are not getting adequate sleep. So that is maybe an education piece that we would start with kids and parents,” said Strukoff.
The school district agreed to look at implementing an MDI for Grade 7 students for 2014/2015.