Free eye exams for 3rd graders who don’t pass reading assessment

Published 3:00 pm Friday, April 22, 2022

Eye exams are once again offered at no cost to third-grade students who do not pass Mississippi’s reading assessment test.

The program, which was suspended for two years due to COVID, will provide exams May 1-July 31. In Lincoln County, exams will be provided by Dr. Chad Smith at Smith Eyecare, 211 N Whitworth Ave.

Options for Lawrence County students are Eyecare Associates doctors E. Watts Davis, Evan Davis and Josh Patrick, in Monticello.

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Copiah County students can choose from Dr. Chris Bullin at Mississippi EyeCare Associates of Hazlehurst, Dr. Chad Smith at Hazlehurst Eye Clinic or Dr. Channing Wells at Wells Vision in Hazlehurst.

Families of Franklin County students can schedule a visit in an adjoining county or call the Vision Foundation office at 601-572-0845.

“It has been said that a child must be able to see to learn. The MVF is excited to once again help promote future success by providing much-needed access to eye exams to our third graders who do not pass the state assessment,” said Dr. Kimberly Ragan, MVF President.

In 2019, nearly 15 percent of the state’s third graders did not pass the literacy promotion test. Studies show that children who struggle to read are more likely to leave school without graduating; ultimately contributing to the poverty rates in our state.

“Vision is a better predictor of academic success than socioeconomic status. As citizens of Mississippi, we are committed to identifying those students who have vision problems,” said Dr. Evan Davis, MOA President and a Lawrence County optometrist.

Statistics show that 25 percent of all school age children have vision problems, and more than 80 percent of those students do not get the help they need. Results of the MOA and MVF Third Grade Eye Exam program (aimed at students who did not pass the third grade reading assessment) reveal that 88 percent of the students who took advantage of the eye exams were found to need some form of visual intervention.

“We are grateful the association is able to offer these eye exams to students once again,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “Vision problems can cause students to not comprehend well when reading, so this intervention is a welcomed tool to address the problem.”

For students who are covered through private insurance, applicable co-pays may apply due to laws that require the doctor to collect this amount. All children, regardless of their family’s ability to pay, will be seen by ODs participating in the program. The MVF, working with industry partners, will cover the costs for any student who needs an exam and is not covered through insurance. Additionally, industry partners are working with Mississippi ODs to provide glasses to any student whose eye exam reveals the need for corrective lenses.

To locate a participating optometrist, parents of eligible third graders may visit or call 601-572-0845. When making the appointment, parents should tell the receptionist they are scheduling the third-grade eye appointment. They should bring the letter notifying them that their child did not pass the assessment test with them to the appointment.