Are School Vision Screenings Reliable?

Amplify EyeCare Manhattan

Just How Accurate Are School Vision Screenings?

Children spend more time in school than with their parents or at home.  Likewise, parents spend much of their time working, whether they work from home or outside.  Making sure our kids get their annual eye exams, dental checkups, and assorted other follow up appointments takes time that many people simply don’t have. Having vision screening at your child's school can potentially provide important information about their children’s eyesight. However, the question of their reliability deserves to be looked at.

The short answer is that these screenings are not particularly accurate. Or, perhaps more accurately, they are not comprehensive. These screenings, which are generally just a simple eye test with a vision chart, cannot substitute for the sort of comprehensive exam a child would receive at an eye doctor, who will have access to devices that’ll more accurately examine both the child’s vision and check for overall eye health. 

These screenings are often performed by people who are not eye care professionals, so there may also be issues with the way the test is carried out and the results calculated. Additionally, the tests are not carried out in a properly controlled environment (in contrast to a doctor’s office), so other factors, such as the lighting and distractions, can influence the results and lead to incorrect conclusions.

They simply cannot detect many of the visual problems children may experience. These include near vision issues, eye tracking, focus, and the ability of the eyes to work together while reading from a book or computer screen--both things extremely important when it comes to schoolwork.

Vision screenings provide less than 4% of the information generated during a comprehensive eye exam and miss up to 75% of children with vision problems. (American Optometric Association)

Why This is a Problem

The main concern with in-school screenings is that parents will rely on them and not have them properly examined by an eye doctor, believing that passing this simple exam means they have perfect vision. This mistaken belief can lead to issues not being detected and treated, which in turn can lead to the problems getting worse over time before action is finally taken. If the problems continue and get worse, that can negatively impact their learning capabilities over time.

Is There Any Value to Vision Screenings?

While we have just established the limitations of in-school vision screenings, there can be some value to them. For example, if your child fails the screening, they likely have a serious vision issue and you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor as soon as possible. Perhaps because they view these screenings as a mere formality, many parents do not bother having their child get properly examined if they fail a screening. Subsequently, as much as 67 percent of children who fail vision screenings do not receive a proper examination or vision care from an eye doctor.

Dr. Wernick cartoon

Rely on Professional Care

You wouldn't rely on an overly simple screening carried out by people who are not professionals in that specific field, for checking other aspects of your health. Your eyes--your children’s eyes, in this case--deserve the highest level of care.

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At Amplify with Dr Wernick I was seeking help for seemingly intractable, probably age-related dryness. I've seen other doctors about it, and that has been helpful, but what he explained to me about it and the careful way he answered all my questions gave me so much more of a clear understanding of what is going on (and is not) that I am more able to implement all his and others' recommendations than I was before. And he gave me additional resources for further follow-up. I am most grateful.


Cynthia Norton

Wow! This is a great Eye Care medical facility. I was thoroughly examined by Dr. Pinkhasov for over 2 hours. She made sure to check my eyes for pretty much everything and patiently explained proper care for my eyes. They definitely know how to provide great care and treat their patients right. Now I know why they have such a great reputation and been around for so long.


Steve Fay

Dr. Kavner is a gifted diagnostician and orthoptic therapist. He treated me several decades ago for a condition similar to dyslexia. I was having migraines five times per week. I worked with him for about a year and I experienced tremendous improvement (down to 3-4 per year) that has lasted.


Mary K.

Dr. Kavner recommended two types of eye therapy for my daughter. One of them using bio-feedback. In just three sessions she is seeing considerably better. She shouted this morning: Ooh my God! I could not see these letters with my glasses on, and now I can see them without my glasses. If you are willing and able to invest in improving your vision, this is a good place to go to!


Peter G.

Dr. Kavner recommended two types of eye therapy for my daughter. One of them using bio-feedback. In just three sessions she is seeing considerably better. She shouted this morning: Ooh my God! I could not see these letters with my glasses on, and now I can see them without my glasses. If you are willing and able to invest in improving your vision, this is a good place to go to!


Kinkie F.

I have always found Dr Kavner's work, expertise and wisdom of the highest caliber. As one of the fathers of OT, occupational othomology, his depth and breadth of knowledge about the eyes' health and wellbeing of the patient is exemplary. Cannot say enough good things about him.


Allen B.
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