My recent post of the IndyStar cartoon of our local school superintendent brought some good questions and commentary on school uniforms to the fore. A few folks (both online and off) asked for more information on what the research says on the effectiveness of school uniforms. Welll......there really is no research that backs up the myriad claims for the impact of uniforms on things like achievement, attendance, or violence (see Lumsdon & Miller, 2002). The results for the most part have been mixed and sometimes contradictory to such claims. One issue of course is the "halo effect" which refers to something generally seen as a positive assumed to have other positive effects. For our question here that means that schools don't usually do just one thing in an effort at reform and it becomes tricky to say which factor caused which effect. In fact, a lot of schools are backing off of uniforms and dress codes because they just don't work (see link).
We do know some things however, like a student's positive conception of school will lead to higher attendance, achievement, and lack of disruptive behavior but the problem is a uniform can't accomplish that (this is kinda like the "commonsense" notion that putting a tie on will get you the kids respect--teach for awhile and see if you agree with that one!).
There are however some newer studies being done that are showing that dress codes and uniforms are good for one, troubling reason: they counter racist and classist views of teachers (and we know how important teacher perception is to student achievement, right?) More on that later.
In my view, this is just another band aid solution to much bigger problems with schools and schooling and we're not really willing to get at those issues. Below find an opinion piece by Alfie Kohn who cites some of the research as well.
Any thoughts? Please post a comment!