Crisis in California’s schools: 250,000 schoolchildren need glasses

Oct 3, 2013 by

Nearly all California public school students who need glasses enter school without them. It’s a problem that’s simple to remedy.

There is a crisis in California’s schools. More than a quarter of a million children, most of them from poor and minority backgrounds, lack the technology they need to succeed in school.

But what they need has nothing to do with mobile devices or educational apps. It’s a technology nearly 800 years old: eyeglasses.

About 250,000 California schoolchildren don’t have the glasses they need to read the board, read books, study math and fully participate in their classes. About 95% of the public school students who need glasses enter school without them. These students are likely to fall behind and to frustrate their teachers and parents.

It’s often not a money issue. Eye exams and corrective lenses are covered by Medi-Cal and many insurance plans. But there is a huge gap between coverage and care. Sometimes it’s that parents and teachers simply haven’t noticed the problem. And then there are the logistical issues: Parents have to take time off from work, and often they must arrange and pay for transportation. And navigating the healthcare system can be daunting. These things often keep kids, especially those from low-income families, out of the doctor’s office.

In 2012, we started Vision to Learn to help address this problem. The idea is simple. Instead of forcing families to go to where the glasses are — the eye clinic — we bring the glasses to where the kids are: the schools.

We assembled a team of dedicated eye doctors and turned a couple of buses into mobile eye clinics. We travel to public and parochial schools in low-income communities in Los Angeles and screen each and every student. We fit those kids who need them with glasses and let them pick their own frames, something they really enjoy. Two weeks later, we return to deliver the new glasses free of charge. We recently completed our first full year and have helped more than 10,000 kids.

We wondered what effect the glasses were having on the kids who got them, so we commissioned an independent study by faculty members of the UCLA schools of medicine and public health. The results, released officially last week, could not be clearer.

via Crisis in California’s schools: 250,000 schoolchildren need glasses –

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