Tuesday, October 28, 2008

They Can't See the Page: More Basic Reasons Poor Kids Struggle to Learn

One in twenty students has trouble focusing well enough to read without trouble. How are kids supposed to learn if they can't see the page?

This isn't new information. We've known about the "vision problem" for years.

In fact, not surprisingly, for poor children this problem, is much worse.

Research indicates that:
50% of low-income kids have untreated vision problems
In some underserved areas, the number of children who fall through the cracks is staggering. Optometrists volunteering through the Lions Club found that 47 percent of children had vision problems in schools in West Los Angeles.
And you can't catch these problems with the cursory exams usually done in schools:
Many lay people confuse a vision screening with a vision exam, although the former is but a procedure that's supposed to identify those children who may need further examination. However, the screenings many schools administer even fall short of that. Vision screenings that test only acuity detect 30 percent of children who would fail a professional exam
In fact, cursory exams may actually exacerbate the problem, indicating that a child can see fine and reducing the chance that she will get a comprehensive exam. In other words, poor exams may actually ensure that the problem is never corrected.

How much of the challenge that poor kids face in learning results from incredibly basic causes that have nothing to do with pedaogy (or even with more subtle issues like cultural mismatch, etc.).

How about the relationship between vision and "delinquent" kids?

A key finding was that almost all of the 132 delinquents in the study had learning related vision problems, but only a few had nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism. Common in teens, these refractive problems are a sign that the person has made adaptations to deal with the stress of close work in the classroom. . . .

The lack of such problems in these delinquents indicates that, at any early age, they chose not to deal with close work, Dr. Harris said. Other study findings show the reason why. They simply lacked the vision skills to do close work.
How much of the achievement gap could be eliminated with comprehensive health care, breakfast, and nutrition?

What an incredible tragedy. Even on these most basic levels we find it impossible to support these children.

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