More evidence in favour of free eye tests and glasses at school

Several recent Best Evidence in Brief articles describe the positive effects on reading achievement of providing free vision screening and glasses to pupils who need them. Adding to the evidence showing that vision is one of the most important health outcomes for academic success, a recent study describes the results of one such programme, Florida Vision Quest.

Florida Vision Quest (FLVQ) is a programme designed to provide pupils in high-poverty schools with vision screening and free vision testing in a mobile vision clinic. If children are found to need glasses, they receive them at no charge. Two pairs are given to each child.

Within three school districts in Central Florida, elementary Title I schools were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: Full treatment (n=19), screen only (n=19), or control (n=38). Only pupils in grades 4 and 5 (Year 5 and 6) were involved in the study. Outcomes were determined for all pupils in those grades, not just those who needed glasses.

Findings showed there were significant positive effects on reading (Florida Comprehensive Achievement Tests, or FCAT) for schools that received the full treatment (effect size = +0.13) but not for those that received screening only. There were no effects for maths.

Source: The Impact of Providing Vision Screening and Free Eyeglasses on Academic Outcomes: Evidence from a Randomized Trial in Title I Elementary Schools in Florida (Spring 2018), Journal of Policy Analysis and Management

The impact of wearing glasses on early literacy

In the previous issue of Best Evidence in Brief, we reported on a study  that showed how wearing glasses improved children’s reading. A similar study by Alison Bruce and colleagues (including the IEE’s Bette Chambers) looks at the impact of wearing glasses on children’s eyesight and early literacy in the UK.

Born in Bradford is a longitudinal study looking at the progress of a multi-ethnic birth cohort in the city of Bradford. From this cohort, 2,930 children underwent a vision screening test in their Reception year. The 432 children who failed the test were referred for follow-up (usually being prescribed glasses) and comprised the treatment group. A further 512 children who passed the sight test were chosen at random to make up the control group. All the children completed tests of literacy (Woodcock Reading Mastery Tests-Revised) and vocabulary (British Vocabulary Picture Scale) at school entry (Year 1) and after 12 months and 24 months. At the same time, researchers checked that the children were wearing their glasses.

The visual acuity of all children improved during the study, but those children who wore their glasses improved most and almost closed the gap on the control children. Letter identification scores declined by 1.5% for every one line reduction (on the LogMar sight chart) in visual acuity. The effect size of wearing glasses was +0.11. The results suggest that failure to wear glasses has implications for young children’s vision and education. Wearing glasses improves both visual acuity and has the potential to improve literacy.

Source: The effect of adherence to spectacle wear on early developing literacy: a longitudinal study based in a large multiethnic city, Bradford, UK (June 2018), BMJ Open

Free glasses improve reading achievement

In the first US school-based study to link reading achievement with the provision of free glasses, Robert Slavin, director of the Center for Research and Reform in Education and colleagues at Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute, examined the effects on reading performance of providing free glasses to disadvantaged pupils.

A total of 317 second and third grade pupils (Years 3 and 4) in 12 disadvantaged Baltimore City schools had their vision tested in the autumn and winter of 2014-2015. They also completed reading pre- and post-tests from the Woodcock Language Proficiency Battery at those times. Sixty-nine percent (n=182) of the pupils’ vision tests showed they needed glasses. Pupils who needed glasses were given two pairs, one for home and one for school. Lost or broken glasses were replaced, and school staff were enlisted to help children remember to wear their glasses. Results showed that the reading scores for the children provided with glasses improved more than those for pupils who did not need glasses (effect size=+0.16).

The study points to a new strategy for improving reading performance in high-poverty schools.

Source: In plain sight: reading outcomes of providing eyeglasses to disadvantaged children (May 2018) Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR) DOI: 10.1080/10824669.2018.1477602