Uniforms do not make our schools better

Challen Stephens of The Huntsville Times wrote the well-researched article “Huntsville city schools consider school uniforms, survey parents through robocalls”:

McCaulley, who represents north Huntsville on the school board, raised the issue in March, suggesting uniforms improve student achievement…  Anecdotal reports out of places such as California and Missouri have found success in reducing discipline problems.

Hmm… I wonder what people who’ve performed actual research on school uniforms have to say:

David Brunsma spent eight years studying the issue and wrote the book on uniforms, “A Symbolic Crusade.” He found little improvement in achievement or discipline. He wrote in American Teacher in 2005: “The results, although surprising to many, simply cannot be ignored. Uniforms do not make our schools better.”

Challen also gets responses from candidates for the school board:

[David] Blair… said he now leans toward school-by-school decisions instead of a systemwide policy on uniforms. “I think you’ve got to wait and see what the survey says”…

His runoff opponent, Emily Elam, said the same. “I feel like the process they are going through right now is the right way to go about making a decision on school uniforms.”

Runoff rivals in south Huntsville’s District 3 also said they’d wait to see the results of the survey. “The parents have got to want it,” said retired principal Walker McGinnis, suggesting he’d support school-by-school decisions over a systemwide policy.

His opponent, board member Jennie Robinson, doesn’t share McCaulley’s interest in the issue. “My focus right now is on academics and finances,” Robinson said Thursday. “Uniforms are kind of down on my priority list.”

One of the problems with the polling is that the Schools didn’t allow for discussion before the poll was taken.  People who read The Times, Flashpoint, or SoldiersPerspective may have seen Brunsma’s conclusion that “uniforms do not make our schools better” – but The Times article was written after the fact.  I don’t think that the results of the poll will be valid, given the lack of public discussion beforehand – and candidates who rely on this flawed process (Blair, Elam, and McGinnis) may arrive at a flawed decision.  Incumbent school board member Jennie Robinson is the only candidate with the right response to this issue.

This article is an example of what I like about Challen Stephen’s reportage.  He does the extra research to add information and value to his stories.  He gets the quotes from the right people.  Somebody should honor him with an award like Best Education Reporting.

CJ Grisham cited Dr. Brunsma’s research in the post “Huntsville City Schools Uniform Proposal”:

…uniforms FAILED, in our empirical analyses, to increase academic preparedness, pro-school attitudes, or a peer structure that supported academics. Finally, to our surprise, we found a small, weak, yet statistically significant negative effect of uniform policies on” violence.

Get that?  Uniforms do not help and schools that have uniforms are more violent.

I urge the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education (and candidates) to put a stop to this farce.  Do your jobs based on facts.

12 thoughts on “Uniforms do not make our schools better

  1. I think you’ve got to follow the money here. I don’t believe that there is a behavior motivation behind this, but a financial one. School uniforms, even at rock bottom prices, are a nice little pad in the pockets of many schools. Just like the PTA provided book bags at my kids school, at a cheap $5 it still represents a significant boost to the PTA budget… so school uniforms bought through a school would end up padding a copier budget already strained.

    Getting costs under control would be a much wiser move than uniforms. At least Robinson seemed to get that.

  2. Lol, people don’t really care about school performances. If it were, how about instead of pushing school uniforms on kids we push parent involvement on parents. That’d be the best and cheapest way to fix our school problems. Oh wait, that might be too difficult on the parents to actually care and help with their child’s education. Instead we yell, “stupid school board” and “it’s the teacher’s fault my kid’s failing!!) What a joke.

    • While I will agree with you that parents ought to be responsible for their kid’s education, I might point ought that the state has, for all practical purposes, taken this responsibility (by force) and now owns the failure. The entire system is broken, from the typical big-hearted less than stellar academic stereotype who majors in “education” to the “new math” and sight memorization “reading” curricula. Until parents wake up and take ownership of their kid’s education from gubment and a gorilla labor union, their offspring will continue to be dumbed down.

  3. Uniforms do not help and schools that have uniforms are more violent.

    I urge the Huntsville City Schools Board of Education (and candidates) to put a stop to this farce. Do your jobs based on facts.

    How can they make schools MORE violent?

    Is that really because of the uniforms?

    Can anyone tell me the reasons for that?

    • My guess, and I haven’t read the study, is that school administrators turn to uniforms as a possible solution to much bigger, intractable problems, including violence. Thus, since schools that adopt uniforms do so in response to problems and the uniforms (surprise!) don’t ultimately solve the problems when researchers come along and compare uniformed schools to non-uniformed schools they see a negative bias against the uniformed schools.

      The government can’t fix parental/guardian involvement, which is problem #1. Schools long ago abandoned common sense regulation in favor of inane zero tolerance policies and a general retreat from effective solutions to student misconduct. So they are left fiddling around with things like uniform policies, which have scant impact on actual performance, but are great hot-button issues.

    • Dale, when I read the study, some of the hypothesis to why this is possible has to do with the “jocks” and “bullies” trying to defend their status while wearing clothing that doesn’t set them apart. Additionally, students may not avoid the people they need to avoid that are trouble makers because their clothing doesn’t “give them away.”

      Two great books that I’ve purchased (at a substantial cost, by the way) are “Uniforms In Public Schools: A decade of Research and Debate.” It is a compendium of research culled together by David Bunsma and sort of a dry read, but eye opening in its findings. It’s very analytical and multifaceted. The other book, also written by Brunsma, is a bit easier to read and comes to the same conclusions. It’s called “The School Uniform Movement and What It Tells Us About American Education: A Symbolic Crusade.” Both books include many case studies, including California, Florida, Texas and others.

      Brunsma summarizes Chapter 6 on behavior in the book this way:

      Page 176: “The results can be quickly summarized. First, uniform policies have no significant impact on measures of self-esteem in middle or high schools. Second, uniform policies have no effect on elementary, meddle or high school students’ measures of locus of control or other strategies of psychological coping. Third, switching from schools without policies to school with policies has no impact on these social-physchological outcomes. Fourth, uniforms simply do not help us understand behavioral problems at school.”

    • Sorry I’m so late on this. Can you tell I’ve been obsessing about this since I left? So far, no major run-ins with the local school here in Texas other than complaining that my daughter was given after school suspension for bringing the wrong book to class.

      • WHAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! that is not fair dont you think sir that is not RIGHT

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  5. this thing is not good for us to have because

    1. theyb will not have those type of thing inthe real world unless you are suppost to. but more and likely no u would not have to.

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