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.[/i] 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)
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.
Supporters further claim that uniforms improve attendance. According to proponents of these policies, uniforms improve school attitude and spirit which brings about a net decrease in truancy and absenteeism. In Long Beach, California, attendance has slowly improved in elementary and middle schools since their mandatory uniform policy has been in effect. Attendance has also improved at the high schools where no uniforms are required, at a more statistically significant rate ("In Schools" 2). This would seem to indicate an overall trend rather than uniform-induced improvement. Further study of these statistics indicates that the trend of improved attendance has been ongoing since 1990 (2). In Polk County, Florida, where the most restrictive, district wide uniform policy in the nation was set in place in 1999, the opposite of Long Beach attendance results is emerging. In the 1998-99 school year there were 506 truancy cases investigated in Polk County. By January 2000, the district was on track to break that record for the 1999-2000 school year (McBride "Schools" 1). The truancy rate is so bad that in an effort to curtail it, the Superintendent of Schools is seeking to criminally prosecute the worst offenders, including a seven-year-old boy (Shah 1). The effect of truancy and absenteeism was also addressed in the University of Notre Dame study. No direct causation was shown (Brunsma and Rockquemore 1). There is no scientific data which shows that uniforms have a positive impact on attendance. In fact, it is possible that in some cases, absenteeism and truancy may increase under these policies.
I'm sure there are schools that have a uniform policy that are great schools.
The question is, is it the uniforms? If a not-good school without a uniform policy institutes one, would it become a good school? Or even make any positive difference?