Improving academic achievement with school-based vision programs

Uncorrected vision problems can create learning difficulties in children. Here’s how a school-based vision program might help improve academic success.

There are many things that can have an effect on a children’s ability to learn. Uncorrected vision issues are one potential problem. A program run in a school system assessed whether a school-based screening plan led to improvements in academic achievement.1

Investigators ran a cluster randomize clinical trial in the Baltimore City public school district during the school years from 2016 to 2019 for grades 3 through 7. Schools that chose to participate were randomized 1:1:1 to receive eye examinations and eyeglasses during 1 of 3 school years: 2016-2017, 2017-2018, and 2018-2019. Academic achievement was defined by the difference in the scores on the i-Ready or Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers tests on reading and mathematics, with the 1 year impact of the intervention being the primary endpoint and 2 year impact, as the secondary endpoint.

There were 2304 students included in the study who had an average age of 9.4 years. Most of the students were either Black (1789) or Hispanic (388). Additionally, 406 students were a part of the special education program. Overall, there was a positive 1-year impact (effect size [ES], 0.09; P = .02) seen with the i-Ready reading test during school year 2016-2017. Furthermore, improvement was seen in female students (ES, 0.15; P < .001), those in special education (ES, 0.25; P < .001), and students who performed in the lowest quartile at baseline (ES, 0.28; P < .001) on i-Ready reading and among students in elementary grades on i-Ready mathematics (ES, 0.03; P < .001) during school year 2016-2017. However, the program did not appear to affect performance on Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing, nor was a sustained impact after 2 years noted.

Overall, children in grades 3 through 7 who were given vision screening and eyeglasses through a program at the school attained better reading scores. Additionally, academic achievement improved over the course of 1 year, but a sustained impact was not seen following 2 years.

Reference

1. Neitzel A, Wolf B, Guo X, et al. Effect of a randomized interventional school-based vision program on academic performance of students in grades 3 to 7. JAMA Ophthalmol. September 9, 2021. Epub ahead of print. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2021.3544