The effects of a school-based vision program on academic achievement

The effects of a school-based vision program on academic achievement

By Nathan Storey, Johns Hopkins University

Sometimes the best method to support student learning falls outside of the classroom, or beyond a teacher’s actions. A recent study by Neitzel and colleagues highlighted the effect of the Vision for Baltimore (V4B) program on student academic achievement from 2016-2019.

V4B is a school-based vision program in which students in grades preK-8 were provided with free vision screening, with eye examinations and eyeglasses (as needed) for those who failed the screenings. These activities were facilitated by a Vision to Learn mobile eye clinic, eye examinations conducted by licensed optometrists, and eyeglasses provided by Warby Parker, with free replacements available to students who lost or broke their original pair.

Neitzel and colleagues used a cluster randomized clinical trial approach including 127 schools enrolled and randomized into the study. Schools were randomized into 1 of 3 study cohorts using block randomization, with each cohort receiving the V4B intervention during different program years.

In the study of 2,304 students in grades 3-8, the researchers found an overall 1-year positive impact (ES = +0.09) in literacy (using the i-Ready reading test), as well as especially positive impacts for students in special education (ES = +0.25), and students who performed in the lowest quartile at baseline (ES = +0.28). The overall effect size of +0.09 is larger than that for most other common interventions, except for tutoring, which is typically the most effective educational intervention. Meanwhile, the effects for students in special education and those who initially performed the lowest are actually comparable to tutoring interventions.

While the study did not show a sustained impact at two years, the project does illustrate the academic benefits of providing eyeglasses to students who would otherwise struggle to access optometry care and highlights the need to understand what types of school supports are needed to maintain those impacts after the first year.

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