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Summaries of RCT Grants

RCT of a vision care intervention in disadvantaged Chicago elementary schools, designed to improve eyeglass usage and learning outcomes

This project will rigorously evaluate a school wide vision care intervention designed to increase eyeglass receipt, retention, and use among children in grades K-5 in disadvantaged Chicago Public Schools, with the goal of improving their vision and (as a result) their school achievement.

Grant Recipient: Johns Hopkins University

Term: 2017 – 2021

Principal Investigators: Robert Slavin, Ph. D., Johns Hopkins University

Megan Collins, M.D., Johns Hopkins University

Funding: $397,721.43

Summary: This project will rigorously evaluate a school wide vision care intervention designed to increase eyeglass receipt, retention, and use among children in grades K-5 in disadvantaged Chicago Public Schools, with the goal of improving their vision and (as a result) their school achievement. Chicago Public Schools has an established system of school-based vision screenings, comprehensive eye assessments, and eyeglass provision to students who need them. However, the school system currently obtains consent from only 17% of parents for the comprehensive eye assessments, which means that many children in need of glasses do not obtain them.

The vision care intervention will provide schools with supports and incentives to ensure that parental consent is obtained and that all children who need glasses receive them, wear them, care for them, and replace them if they are lost or broken. The intervention was designed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins School of Education and the Wilmer Eye Institute, based on their experience in the ongoing LJAF-funded RCT of eyeglass provision to disadvantaged students in Baltimore. Based on this experience, the researchers expect the intervention to increase parental consent from 17% in Chicago to at least 70%, and ensure that about 80% of students who are prescribed eyeglasses actually wear them in class.

The intervention will be funded through a $1.2 million grant from the Robert M. and Diane V.S. Levy Family Foundation. The costs of comprehensive eye assessments and glasses will be covered through Medicaid. LJAF will fund the RCT, in which 80 elementary schools will be randomly assigned to a treatment group that receives the intervention in the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years, or to a control group that receives services-as-usual (without the intervention). The primary outcomes will be math and reading test scores of students in grades K-5 identified through screening as at risk for refractive error (approximately 10,000 students). The outcomes will be measured over both a one and two-year follow-up period, using mandated state achievement tests in Illinois.

Prior RCT and quasi-experimental evidence suggests the intervention could produce meaningful effects on student achievement. This Chicago project is a variation on the intervention being tested in Baltimore, and will provide an important second test, in another major urban public school setting, of whether vision correction can lead to improved educational outcomes.

The study’s pre-specified analysis plan is linked here.

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