Local third graders who failed the Mississippi Assessment Program reading exam have access to intervention that could spur them to higher academic achievement in years to come.
This program doesn’t include books, tutors or overt learning devices. But it can still help students see their learning opportunities more clearly.
For three years, the Mississippi Optometric Association and Mississippi Vision Foundation is offering free eye exams to uninsured third graders who fail the MAP reading assessment, a test students have up to three chances to pass in order to advance to fourth grade.
Linda Ross Aldy, executive director for the MOA and MVF said the program also provides glasses, at no cost, to examined students who are found to need them.
According to a press release from the organizations, previous results from the eye exam programs found 88 percent of students examined needed some form of visual intervention. The release also notes 25 percent of school-age children have vision problems. More than 80 percent of those children, it says, do not get the assistance they need.
“As citizens of Mississippi, we have a vested interest in making sure all of our students have the tools and the opportunity to succeed at their highest abilities. Only by partnering with our schools can we begin to see change take place,” said Dr. Mike Weeden, MOA president in the release. “The MOA and its foundation are pleased to be a part of making a difference in the lives of students and we are committed to identifying those students who have vision problems.”
Students have already taken the exam once. Those who did not pass will have two more chances during the summer. Last year, 13 percent of Mississippi’s third graders did not pass the assessment, according to MDE.
The eye exam program is available through July 31. Parents who go to participating optometry locations should tell receptionists they are scheduling a third grade eye appointment and bring the letter saying their child didn’t pass the reading test with them to the appointment.
More program information, and participating optometrist locations, can be found at www.msvisionfoundation.org.
Columbus Municipal School District Superintendent Philip Hickman applauded the program, saying he saw it as an overall benefit for students.
“Any organization that’s willing to donate services, or charge at a reduced cost to be more successful–that’s a win-win,” Hickman said.
Hickman noted CMSD offers free vision screening for students, but said eyesight can worsen over time. He also said families sometimes learn their children have vision issues, but they can’t afford corrective measures.
“That’s another hurdle we have to overcome as a school district that has 80 to 90 percent (of students) on free or reduced lunches,” Hickman said. “A lot of times, we do have kids that were able to get early diagnoses, but the issue is parents don’t have transportation or can’t afford to get the glasses.”
Lowndes County Superintendent Lynn Wright also said he viewed the program as a boon for students.
“I think that’s great and we applaud them for doing it,” Wright said.
“We have vision screening, and the Lions Club is good about helping students who cannot afford glasses or require glasses,” Wright added. “We appreciate the fact that this other organization is willing to do this.”
Robin Ballard, LCSD assistant superintendent, said seeing better will directly correlate with student achievement.
“It can open up a whole new world, not only with printed text, but to all the other visible stimulation in the classroom — everything from the teachers’ instructions to charts and materials on the dry-erase board,” Ballard said. “If they’re not able to see clearly, it can be a real obstacle to learning.”
Preliminary test results
Though finalized results will not be released until later this year, CMSD and LCSD released their initial results to The Dispatch on Thursday.
Ballard said 27 of 413 LSCD students, or about 7 percent, did not pass the first test. Eleven of those did not qualify for good cause exemptions, which apply to students with disabilities or are learning English as a second language, and will take the test a second time.
“We’re very, very pleased with our initial results,” Wright said.
In CMSD, 86.38 percent of students passed the first round of testing, which Hickman said is improved compared to the same time last year.
“This time last year, we were at 81 percent,” he said. “We’re 5 percent better than we were doing at the same time last year.”
In Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, 37 of its 438 third graders (8.4 percent) did not pass the test on the first try, according to district administration. Of those, 14 are required to retest, while the others received good-cause exemptions.
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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