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					Research Paper Excerpts, Particles and Sources

For years, school uniforms were associated with Catholic schools and
the elite private schools. However, since the early 1990s a uniform
movement has been occurring in public schools across the country.
Currently 23 percent of all public schools require students to wear
uniforms in an effort to raise academic achievement and curb school
violence. However, a new book by David Brunsma, assistant profesor
of Sociology, contends that school uniform policies are not effective in
either of these efforts.

                      "It is assumed that school uniforms make
students feel better about themselves and, in turn, make them more
internally motivated to succeed," said Brunsma. "Several factors can
contribute to or contradict this outcome, including parental
involvement, communication, student preparedness for school,
positive approaches to learning, educational climates and safe

The School Uniform Movement and What it Tells Us About American Education: A
Symbolic Crusade represents the most thorough exposition on our present understanding
of the impetuses, debates, legalities, and effectiveness of school uniform policies that
have rapidly entered the discourse of school reform in the United States. In it, David
Brunsma provides an antidote to the ungrounded, anecdotal components that define the
contemporary conversation regarding policies of standardized dress in American K-12
districts and schools.

Drawing upon years of experience and research directed at objectively and empirically
understanding the issue of school uniform policies, Brunsma provides, for the first time:

· a comprehensive history of the issue

· critical evaluation of the extant literature
· reviews of several case studies

· results of nationally representative empirical research

All of this is of the utmost importance for those who wish to be informed and insightful
participants in the contemporary debate on school uniform policies.

Educators, parents, concerned community members, and others will gladly welcome such
a compilation of present understandings of the crucial empirical, sociological, cultural,
political, and legal dimensions of the school uniform debate; it will also appeal to all
those who are interested in the politics and critical realities behind the school uniform
movement underway in the United States. In the end, the school uniform movement
reveals a great deal about the politics, social realities, and highly contested terrain of
educational reform and the process of schooling in the United States.

                                 School Uniforms

                          This study was first published in the:
                          The Journal of Education Research
                 (Volume 92, Number 1, Sept./Oct. 1998, pp. 53-62)
                     by David L. Brunsma, University of Alabama
                      and Kerry A. Rockquemore, Notre Dame.

                                      under the title:
   Effects of Student Uniforms on Attendance, Behavior Problems, Substance
                          Abuse, and Academic Achievement.
    In one sentence, this study showed that uniforms did NOT lead to an
improvement in attendance, behavior, drug use, or academic achievement.


Mandatory uniform policies have been the focus of recent discourse on public
school reform. Proponents of such reform measures emphasize the benefits of
student uniforms on specific behavioral and academic outcomes. Tenth grade
data from The National Educational Longitudinal Study of 1988 was used to
test empirically the claims made by uniform advocates. The findings indicate
that student uniforms have no direct effect on substance use, behavioral
problems, or attendance. Contrary to current discourse, the authors found a
negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement. Uniform
policies may indirectly affect school environments and student outcomes by
providing a visible and public symbol of commitment to school improvement
and reform.

Brunsma and Rockquemore wanted to investigate the extraordinary
claims being made about how wonderful school uniforms are,
particularly from the Long Beach California. It was being claimed that
mandatory uniform policies were resulting in massive decreases (50 to
100 percent) in crime and disciplinary problems.

It is typically assumed, as exemplified in Long Beach, that uniforms are
the sole factor causing direct change in numerous behavioral and
academic outcomes. Those pronouncements by uniform proponents
have raised strident objections and created a political climate in which
public school uniform policies have become highly contested. The
ongoing public discourse is not only entrenched in controversy but also
largely fueled by conjecture and anecdotal evidence. Hence, it now
seems critical that empirical analysis should be conducted to inform the
school uniform debate. In this study, we investigated the relationship
between uniforms and several outcomes that represent the core
elements of uniform proponent's claims. Specifically, we examined how
a uniform affects attendance, behavior problems, substance abuse, and
academic achievement. We believe that a thorough analysis of the
arguments proposed by uniform advocates will add critical insight to the
ongoing debate on the effects of school uniform policies. (Brunsma and
Rockquemore, 1998, pg. 54)

The authors point out that if uniforms work, they should see some of the
following trends in schools with uniforms:

  1. Student uniforms decrease substance use (drugs).
  2. Student uniforms decrease behavioral problems.
  3. Student uniforms increase attendance.
  4. Student uniforms increase academic achievement.

They suspected that when other variables affecting these four items
were accounted for, it would be shown that uniforms were not the cause
for improvement.

How They Did Their Study

They used data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study of
1988 (NELS:88), and three follow-up studies. These studies tracked a
national sample of eighth graders (in 1988) from a wide variety of public
and private schools and followed their academic careers through
college. Some of the data collected in the studies included uniform
policies, student background (economic and minority status), peer group
(attitudes towards school and drug use), school achievement, and
behavioral characteristics (how often did each student get into trouble,
fights , suspensions, etc.). The authors concentrated on data from the
students 10th grade year.

Some of the independent variables they considered were sex, race,
economic status, public or private school, academic or vocational
"tracking", rural or urban district, peer proschool attitudes, academic
preparedness, the student's own proschool attitudes, and most
importantly, whether or not the students wore uniforms. The researchers
wanted to determine if there was a tie between these variables and
desirable behavior by the students. The areas that they were looking for
improvement as a result of the previous variables included reduced
absenteeism, fewer behavioral problems, reduced illegal drug use, and
improved standardized test scores. The researchers considered this
second group of variables to be the dependent variables. The goal of
their study was to determine if there was any relationship between the
independent variables (particularly uniforms) and the dependent

The authors took all of the data for these variables from the NELS:88
study and performed a regression analysis to see if any of the
independent variables were predictors of any of the dependent
variables. If there was a strong tie in the data between any two variables
( uniforms and absenteeism, for example), it would show up in the study
as a correlation coefficient close to 1 or -1. A correlation coefficient near
0 indicates no relationship between the two variables. So, if wearing
uniforms had a large effect on behavior, we would expect to see a
correlation coefficient of say 0.5 between uniforms and measures of
good behavior. If we see a very low correlation coefficient between
these two, then we know that wearing uniforms has no real effect on

The only positive result for uniforms that the study showed was a very
slight relationship between uniforms and standardized achievement
scores. The correlation coefficient was 0.05, indicating a very slight
possible relationship between the two variables, but showing that
uniforms are a very poor predictor of standardized test scores and that
the relationship is much weaker than has been indicated in the uniform
debate. Notice that 0,05 is much closer to 0 than to 1. Other than this
one weak, possible relationship, uniforms struck out. In the authors own

Student uniform use was not significantly correlated with any of the
school commitment variables such as absenteeism, behavior, or
substance use (drugs). In addition, students wearing uniforms did not
appear to have any significantly different academic preparedness,
proschool attitudes, or peer group structures with proschool attitudes
than other students. Moreover, the negative correlations between the
attitudinal variables and the various outcomes of interest are significant;
hence, the predictive analysis provides more substantive results.

In other words, the authors saw no relationship between wearing
uniforms and the desirable behavior (reduced absenteeism, reduced
drug usage, improved behavior). They did, however, see a strong
relationship between academic preparedness, proschool attitudes, and
peers having proschool attitudes and the desirable behaviors.
Furthermore, they saw no relationship between wearing uniforms and
the variables that do predict good behavior (academic preparedness,
proschool attitudes, and peers having proschool attitudes).

   Based upon this analysis, the authors were forced to reject the ideas that
   uniforms improved attendance rates, decreased behavioral problems, decreased
   drug use, or improved academic achievement. The authors did find that
   proschool attitudes from students and their peers and good academic
   preparedness did predict the desired behavior. They saw that wearing uniforms
   did not lead to improvements in proschool attitudes or increased academic


   David L. Brunsma, D.L. and Rockquemore, K.A. (1998) Effects of
   Student Uniforms on Attendance, Behavior Problems, Substance
   Abuse, and Academic Achievement, The Journal of Education
   Research Volume 92, Number 1, Sept./Oct. 1998, pp. 53-62

School Uniforms: The Raging Debate
by Darlene Williams

Imagine that you pick your seven-year-old child up from school. He is crying and
wearing a different outfit than the one he wore to school. This is naturally
upsetting but not as upsetting as your next discovery. His shirt, one you have
never seen before, has a large "L" written on the sleeve in permanent marker; his
shorts, also not his, are too large, stained and faded. Upon questioning your
child, you discover that, despite your best efforts at compliance, your child’s
clothing has violated the school’s uniform policy. Neither you nor your husband
was called to bring your child a "compliant" change of clothing; rather a loaner
uniform was forced upon your child. He was made to change into these alien
clothes (McBride "Student" 1-2).

The debate over mandatory uniforms in the public school system is raging across
the country and in our own backyards. Proponents claim uniforms improve many
areas in the educational arena while opponents vigorously challenge these
claims. Opponents also cite potential civil rights violations while uniform
supporters counter that the potential benefits greatly outweigh any loss of
freedoms. The issue of mandatory uniforms in the public schools gained the
spotlight of national attention following President Clinton’s 1996 State of the
Union address. During that speech the President stated, "If it means that
teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public
schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms" (Clinton 4).
The President later visited Long Beach, California, where the first, district wide,
mandatory school uniform policy in the country was enjoying seemingly
remarkable success. He told those attending his speech that he had signed an
order instructing the Secretary of Education to send to all school districts across
the nation the newly generated Manual on School Uniforms ("Clinton" 1). The
manual outlines specific steps for school districts wishing to implement uniform
policies. It also gives examples of a few model policies from across the nation
(United 1-7). The President went on to thank and praise Long Beach for their
glowingly successful uniform policy ("Clinton" 3). Thus, the Long Beach Unified
School District’s uniform policy became the national standard for school districts
across the country.

Despite the apparent success of some uniform policies, these often highly
restrictive codes are not without problems. First, the highly favorable anecdotal
reports coming from some school districts with uniform policies contrast sharply
with the emerging empirical studies on the efficacy of uniforms. The recent data
does not support the claims made by uniform proponents. Also, if provision is not
made to permit parents to opt out (exempt their children from these policies), the
codes are vulnerable to legal challenge (United 3). Sadly, some districts in an
attempt to have a successful uniform code are overzealous in their enforcement
techniques, causing confusion and stress for school staff and parents and often
humiliation for students. While requiring public school students to wear uniforms
may sound like an attractive quick fix to some, actual implementation of these
highly restrictive policies is often rife with difficulties.
Proponents of mandatory school uniforms claim that data and evidence support
their assertions that uniforms improve discipline and reduce crime. While the
positive reports emerging from some school districts with uniform policies seem
to lend credence to this position, upon closer examination, flaws begin to appear.
In Long Beach, California, the first district to have a widespread mandatory
uniform policy in the public schools, the initial reports concerning drops in crime
and discipline were astonishing. Assault dropped by sixty-seven percent,
vandalism by eighty-two percent, and robbery by thirty-five percent. Overall crime
was reduced by seventy-three percent the first year the policy was in place ("K-8"
1). Unfortunately, these radical improvements were, at times, attributed
exclusively to the new, mandatory uniform policy. During a telephone interview in
April 1996, Dick Van Der Laan, Long Beach Unified School District spokesman,
stated that the only change which had occurred in the district, prior to the
improved discipline results, was the implementation of the uniform policy.
However, in the study conducted by Drs. David L. Brunsma and Kerry A.
Rockquemore of the University of Notre Dame, a closer look at the Long Beach
case revealed that several other reforms were put in place at the same time or
shortly prior to the implementation of the uniform policy. So, while uniforms were
the most visible change, the improvements were more likely attributable to the
other programs which included, among other initiatives, a $1 million grant from
the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation for the improvement of teaching methods
(Brunsma and Rockquemore 16). Concerning the tendency of Long Beach
sources to give credit for the improvements exclusively to uniforms, the study
states, "It seems curious given these substantive reform efforts, administrators
continue to insist that uniforms are the sole factor causing a variety of positive
educational outcome" (16). In response to such scrutiny, Van Der Laan now
states that while the district believes uniforms were a contributing factor to the
improved discipline rates, they were not the only cause (United 4). The University
of Notre Dame study also belies the claims that uniforms improve discipline: "Our
findings indicate that student uniforms have no direct effect on . . . behavioral
problems" (Brunsma and Rockquemore 1). So, despite the claims that the
improving disciplinary numbers being issued by Long Beach, California, are
attributable to uniforms, the data seems to contradict those assertions.

Another example of a district’s policy failing to produce the results often touted by
uniform supporters is the Miami-Dade County, Florida policy. In an effort to
obtain the dramatically positive discipline results reported by Long Beach, Miami-
Dade County implemented a similar policy in many of their elementary and
middle schools beginning in the 1996-97 school year. The results were, at best,
disappointing and, at worst, alarming. The elementary schools with mandatory
uniforms saw a slight decrease in discipline problems. Unfortunately, the high
hopes held by the district for immediate, significant improvement in discipline
were not realized. Sabrina Walters, a reporter for the Miami Herald writes, "The
drastic decline uniform supporters had envisioned did not occur" (1). Alarmingly,
in middle schools, where uniforms were mandatory, fights nearly doubled over a
four-year period from 186 in 1996-97 to 284 in 1997-98. The district
administrators attempted to explain away this startling fact by pointing out that
fights increased at nonuniform schools as well from 152 to 201 over the same
period (1). The conclusion of the Miami-Dade Study states,

                             This study has not proven the unequivocal effectiveness of
                             mandatory uniforms. If school uniforms promoted
                             educative behavior, as powerfully as conjectured, the
                             incidents of safety infractions should have declined
                             dramatically subsequent to the establishment of uniform
                             policies at elementary schools in Miami-Dade County.
                             However, as indicated the changes in frequency of these
                             infractions were independent of which dress code was
                             operative at a school. (Miami-Dade 4-5)
The summary further states that while some safety violations declined at mandatory
uniform schools, the same problems were reduced at nonuniform schools as well (1).
Empirical data does not support the anecdotal accounts of discipline and safety
improvements cited by uniform proponents.

Improved academic achievement is an additional benefit frequently attributed to
mandatory uniform policies. Consistently, however, data from true scientific study
seems to contradict this claim. In the study performed by Drs. Brunsma and
Rockquemore, test scores at schools having mandatory uniforms actually
dropped (1). The school district in Long Beach, California, continues to produce
test scores significantly below the state average despite years of mandatory
uniforms ("STAR California" and "STAR Long"). Despite claims set forth by
proponents that uniforms improve academic performance, there is no empirical
data to lend validation to these claims.

As far as uniforms clouding the socio-economic background of students, there will
always be ways to impress others with a person’s economic status in life. What a person
wears is a prime indicator of their economic standing. "Economic distinctions are part of
the fabric of our society, and they will not be unraveled by covering them with a
uniform." (Evans, 1996.)

Clinton speech excerpt

good article – use this !!!!

nice essay on uniforms

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