David Brunsma, a Mizzou Sociology professor, published “The Effect of Student Uniforms on Attendence, Behavior Problems, Substance Use, and Academic Achievement” in The Journal of Educational Research when he taught at UAH (fun read!):
Recent discourse on public school reform has focused on mandatory uniform policies. Proponents of such reform measures emphasize the benefits of student uniforms on specific behavioral and academic outcomes… Our findings indicate that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral problems or attendance. A negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement was found. These findings are contrary to current discourse on student uniforms.
This article was published in 1998, since then Brunsma wrote the book on school uniforms. “Current discourse” indeed… Schools adopt uniforms in hopes of imitating private and church school performance:
A decade of research showing the effectiveness of private schools has led some school reformers to consider various policies which are linked to private and Catholic school success. Within the Catholic school literature, school uniforms have never been asserted as a primary factor in producing the Catholic school effect.
Brunsma notes the opposing arguments to school uniforms. Note the ACLU’s argument – cost to disadvantaged parents – more on that later:
Opponents of adopting uniform policies stress the legal, financial, and questionable effectiveness of such policies. The legal concerns focus on the supposition that requiring a uniform violates children’s individual rights… Financially, groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have voiced concerns about the cost of uniforms, specifically that purchasing one is a mandatory cost which some disadvantaged parents are unable to afford. Finally, the strongest opponents to uniform policies charge that there currently exists no empirical evidence to support the numerous and varied claims of uniform proponents.
Brunsma then goes through a bunch of data and does unspeakable deviations and correlations and regressions to conclude:
Our failure to find a direct effect of uniforms on behavioral outcomes or academic achievement provide cause for a closer examination of the uniform debate. It seems that reformers have seriously considered the educational research showing outcome differentials between public and Catholic school students. However, it is equally apparent that the most superficial policies are those that have been extracted for possible reform efforts…
Instituting a uniform policy can be viewed as analogous to cleaning and brightly painting a deteriorating building in that on the one hand, it grabs our immediate attention but on the other, is, after all, really only a coat of paint.
The ACLU’s concern for disadvantaged parents buying mandatory school uniforms led to school systems (TAXPAYERS) buying the uniforms for those parents. The City of Madison requires specific PE uniforms; since this is mandated the City is required to buy gym clothes for disadvantaged parents (thanks LCTMadison). Are the same ‘programs’ available at the Huntsville schools that have adopted school uniforms?
We’re being told that the schools are in a funding crisis – but the School System is preparing to spend even more taxpayer money on a new school uniform policy – which doesn’t work.
I asked District 2 school board candidate David Blair about the uniform policy - he said it was “window dressing”. Right answer. But then he said that if the parents vote for it, he’d support it (saying something about ‘representing the District’). Wrong answer on this issue. Keep in mind that there was no real public discussion about the policy before the Schools sprung the phone poll on parents. Also keep in mind that the taxpayers who will fund the program haven’t been asked their opinion. Note that I voted for Blair in the municipal election and will vote for him in the runoff on October 5.