School Climate Survey: Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI)

Notice of Collection

  • To comply with the Education Act s.169.1(1)(a), (a.1), (a.2) and PPM 145, the WCDSB is required to conduct school climate surveys of students at least once every two years as they play a key role in contributing to a positive school climate.
  • The purpose of the school climate survey is to assess the perceptions of safety from students, make informed planning decisions about programs to help prevent bullying and promote safe and inclusive schools, determine the effectiveness of programs on an ongoing basis, and build and sustain a positive school climate.
  • No personal information will be collected from students on the survey (e.g., email, name, birthdate, student ID). Therefore, responses from the survey cannot be connected with information already held by the Board in our student information system.
  • Responses will be combined to create school-level and Board-level reports. To ensure that individuals cannot be identified from reporting of the demographic questions on the survey (e.g., Adults they live with, Number of siblings, Gender, School, Grade, Indigenous identity, First language, and English proficiency), suppression will be used in cases where there are fewer than 5 students responding to a specific question or a combination of questions.
  • The de-identified student responses from the WCDSB and the WRDSB will be combined to create a Waterloo Region summary report without identifying individual students and individual school boards.
  • No program, service or benefit may be withheld because a student does not participate, or refuses to participate, in the school climate survey.
  • If you have questions about the school climate survey collection, please contact your school administrator, the WCDSB Research Coordinator ( or the WCDSB Privacy Records and Information Management Officer (

Why are we launching a school climate survey at WCDSB?

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) is committed to providing safe, caring and inclusive places for everyone in our schools.  One way that we can find out how we are doing is to ask students about their health and well-being. To collect this information, we will administer the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI).  This anonymous, online survey has been developed by researchers at the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) at the University of British Columbia (UBC), and the administration of the MDI will be facilitated by the WCDSB Research Department.

The role of the WCDSB is to support the collection process for students and to make the best use of the information that is gathered. This is an opportunity for us to learn more about the students we support and help us to identify needs of our school communities.  All students between grade 4 and grade 12 will be invited to participate.

Who created the school climate survey for students?

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) is using the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) to satisfy our requirement to conduct an anonymous school climate survey in accordance of the Education Act s.169.1(1)(a), (a.1), (a.2) and PPM 145.

The MDI is a self-report survey and is completed by children starting in grades 4 (i.e., Introduction to the MDI).  The MDI survey questions were developed by a research team at Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), which is led by Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl at the University of British Columbia.  For more information about how the MDI was developed, please visit

“The MDI is a population-level research tool. This means it measures developmental change or trends in populations or groups of children. Although individual students complete the questionnaire, the results are not used to evaluate individual children, nor are they used to rank teachers, neighborhoods, schools or school districts. Understanding how populations of children are doing allows educators, parents, researchers, community organizations and policy makers to make informed decisions about investments in new or adapted programs and in broad policies that support children and families.” (From: )

What types of questions are included in the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI)?

The survey asks students about their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in school and in the community (MDI Questionnaires).  All of the questions on the MDI are related to the five areas of development that are strongly linked to well-being, health, and academic achievement:  Physical Health & Well-Being, Connectedness, Social & Emotional Development, School Experiences, and Use of After-School Time.

mdi examples

When will this survey take place?

We are inviting students to participate in an anonymous survey between February 22, 2022 and March 11, 2022.  All students between grade 4 and grade 12 will be invited to participate.

Will other information be combined with the responses?

The survey is anonymous.  This means that no personal information will be collected from students when they participate in the survey (e.g., email, name, birthdate, student ID).  Since responses are de-identified from point of collection, responses cannot be combined with other types of information previously collected under the Education Act.

How will the information from this survey be used?

This questionnaire is not a test and will not be used to evaluate any one individual student, nor be used for report cards, diagnosis, or psychological assessment purposes. The information that your child provides in the survey will be collected anonymously to be combined with other students in their school to generate a School Report and combined with all students within the WCDSB to generate a Board Report.  These reports will be shared with the school and may be shared with community partners.  As well, the responses from the WCDSB and the WRDSB will be combined to create and overall Waterloo Region report where individual students, schools and/or Boards could be identified.

The results of the survey (i.e., reports) will be used to inform activities to enhance school engagement, positive learning experience and academic success as it relates to their School Improvement Plan.  The MDI survey will not be used by the School Board to rank schools, students, or classes in any way.

Non-identifiable survey responses will be provided to the HELP group at UBC for research purposes. Researchers who receive permission to use the MDI data through HELP for research or statistical purposes will be provided data that cannot be connected to any individual student.

Who will be able to see the survey responses?

By law, the WCDSB must protect the privacy and personal information of students.  The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) complies with the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA) and the requirements of the Education Act.  Only a few WCDSB staff (i.e., Research Department) WILL have access to your answers, but only to do research.  Teachers, principals, and other school board staff WILL NOT see survey responses.

What if I do not want my child(ren) to participate?

The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) is voluntary. Any student may choose not to participate, to stop participating, or to skip a question at any time. Additionally, parents/guardians of students under 18 years of age can ask that their child be exempt from participating in the MDI. As part of our communication campaign, information has been distributed electronically by school Newswire, on our website, and/or on social media.

To request an exemption for a child please contact your child’s school. You may ask for an exemption by contacting your child’s teacher or school administrator (by phone or by email).

Parents/guardians who would like their child to be exempted from participating in the MDI may request an exemption at any time before February 22, 2022.

If a parent/guardian does not submit a request to opt-out, all students will receive an invitation to participate in the MDI during class time.

Is the Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) Voluntary?

Yes.  The MDI is voluntary.  The student can choose if they want to complete the survey.  The student can stop answering questions at any time.  The student can skip any question they do not wish to answer.

How is my child’s privacy protected?

The Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI) will be implemented using the online survey platform Qualtrics. Qualtrics has been assessed by the Privacy and Research teams in WCDSB to ensure compliance with privacy and security requirements.

WCDSB’s Research Department has developed a data management plan to comply with Board policies, MFIPPA and the Education Act.  All survey responses will be kept on encrypted servers and password protected devices with role-based access restrictions. Data will be securely disposed of as per the WCDSB Records Retention Schedule.

Only WCDSB Research & Data Services Department staff will have access to your child’s anonymous survey responses.  We are not collecting names or identifiers (e.g., email), but we are collecting identifiers that, if combined with other information, could allow a determined individual to re-identify specific people. We are implementing safeguards to prevent this potential outcome. For questions or concerns related to the privacy of your child’s survey data, please contact the School Principal or the WCDSB Privacy, Records and Information Management Officer (

How will students participate?  Will there be any accommodations to support students?

All students at the WCDSB are invited to participate in the MDI between Grades 4 and 12.  The survey will be available online and Teachers will administer the MDI during class time with board devices.

Students will be invited to participate in a voluntary online survey during school time with staff supervision using a Board provided device.  Your child’s responses to the questions will be collected, stored, and presented anonymously – only the WCDSB Research & Data Services Department will have access to the anonymous survey data and will create anonymous reports for our school and school Board. If a question bothers a student in any way, the student may skip the question or can stop answering the survey altogether. All students will receive information about who they can reach out to should they need help at the end of the survey.

The following accommodations are available for students:

  • Languages – The Student Census will be available in the following languages (based on 2016 Census data):
  • English
  • Arabic
  • Portuguese
  • Spanish
  • Russian
  • French

If your child will require another language, please make your request by contacting your school administrator.

  • Text to Speech – Online survey is compatible with Google Read & Write Extension.
  • Support Staff (e.g., EAs, CYWs, SERTs, ESL supports) – If a student has regular and recurring classroom supports to complete schoolwork and assessments, these supports will be available to assist the student to log onto their device, open the url link to the survey and/or orient themselves with the available accommodations (e.g., font size, Google Read&Write, Translation). These staff will ensure your child’s privacy is maintained.

What if my child has a cognitive or physical challenge?  Can my child still participate?

Yes. If your child (the student) has a cognitive or physical challenge and is unable to participate directly, the parent/guardian should contact your school administrator to plan for another person (i.e., parent/guardian) to complete the survey on behalf of the student.  If you have questions or comments about the WCDSB Student Census, please contact your school administrator or and one of the Census team staff members will respond shortly.

Middle Development Instrument (MDI) in Ontario

The MDI was developed by the Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), led by Dr. Kim Schonert-Reichl at the University of British Columbia, and the administration of the MDI is continuing to expand across Canada and internationally.