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City Comptroller Claims Schools Neglect Hearing, Vision Tests

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The city comptroller said Thursday that the school system is not testing enough students for vision and hearing problems, but some principals claim the data was misinterpreted. NY1’s Education reporter Michael Meenan filed the following report.

City Comptroller Bill Thompson said Thursday that a Department of Education audit shows that school fail to conduct mandatory screening of students for vision and hearing problems.

"Our findings show that the DOE’s ability to perform this task is dismal," said Thompson.

The city Health Department is in charge of annual tests for children in pre-K, kindergarten and first grade. The schools themselves are supposed to test students in third and fifth grade -- the only other classes where testing is required.

Thompson says at ten schools he studied, the DOH did its job in the beginning grades about 94 percent of the time, but the schools are only testing in the later grades just 42 percent of the time.

Thompson says students can't succeed if impairments aren't corrected early on.

"Studies show a clear correlation between good vision, literacy and achievement," said Thompson.

At P.S. 102 in East Harlem, one of the two Manhattan schools on Thompson's list, one father said his preschool son was not yet tested.

"I'll do it on my own if I have to, if the school doesn't want to do it," said parent Wilfredo Febus.

Then, P.S. 102's principal Sandra Gittens appeared and explained to NY1 that students at P.S. 102 get free eyeglasses if they fail the vision test.

"I'm sticking up for my school, P.S. 102, because I know we do the right thing for kids here," said Gittens.

When Gittens was asked about seven P.S. 102 students that Thompson said were not tested, she said, “They may have been absent when they first took the exam for hearing and vision, or perhaps there is some data that is incorrect."

Gittens then said that they, along with the other 343 kids in the school, will be tested on-schedule.

One mother of a P.S. 102 student said her third-grade boy gets tested.

"He did good. He doesn't need glasses, thank God, cause I wear glasses -- and his hearing was good," said parent Loretta Hall.

An education official said that elementary schools are "on track to provide the hearing and vision screening services our students need."

- Michael Meenan
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