Receipt of Corrective Lenses and Academic Performance of Low-Income Students
Untreated vision problems are associated with poor school performance. Whether providing glasses alone improves performance, however, remains unknown.
The study sought to test whether receiving glasses was associated with improved school performance for low-income minority students in Los Angeles.
From 2017 to 2018, we analyzed achievement marks in mathematics and language arts from 406 first to fifth grade students attending 24 public elementary schools who received glasses through a free school-based vision program between February and May 2014, and 23,393 of their nonparticipating same-school, same-grade peers.
The study calculated students' percentile rank during each grading period in 1 year before and 2 years since they received glasses. Multilevel linear regressions tested whether percentile rank differed from baseline at each subsequent grading period.
Models accounted for clustering at the school level and controlled for gender, grade level, and baseline class rank. Interaction terms tested whether associations differed by gender and class rank.
Students increased 4.5 percentile points (P = .02) in language arts in the second year after receiving glasses.
There was no change in math achievement overall; however, those with baseline performance in the bottom tercile had an immediate and sustained improvement of 10 to 24 percentile points from baseline (interaction term P < .001).
Class rank for behavior marks decreased during the fourth grading period after receiving glasses but subsequently returned to baseline. There were no significant changes in work habits and no variation in results by gender.
Ensuring access to vision care may be a simple, scalable strategy to improve language arts performance for low-income minority children.