In 1999, twelve percent of public elementary schools in
the United States required students to wear uniforms. Just three years later,
estimates were almost double that.
Some middle and high schools have also joined the
movement. Yet studies find mixed results from requiring uniforms. And some
schools have turned away from such policies.
Supporters believe dressing the same creates a better learning environment
and safer schools. The school district in Long Beach, California, was the first
in the country to require uniforms in all elementary and middle schools.
That was in 1994. The example helped build national interest in uniforms as a
way to deal with school violence and improve learning.
Findings in Long Beach suggested that the policy resulted in fewer behavior
problems and better attendance. But researcher Viktoria Stamison has looked at
those findings. She says they were based only on opinions about the effects of
She says other steps taken at the same time to improve schools in Long Beach
and statewide could have influenced the findings. The district increased
punishments for misbehavior. And California passed a law to reduce class sizes.
Her report is among several in a book published last year called "Uniforms in
Public Schools: A Decade of Research and Debate."
In Florida, for example, researcher Sharon Pate found that uniforms seemed to
improve behavior and reduce violence. In Texas, Eloise Hughes found fewer
discipline problems among students required to wear uniforms, but no effect on
Sociologist David Brunsma has studied school uniform policies since 1998. He
collected the reports in the book. In his own study, he found that reading and
mathematics performance dropped after a school in rural Pennsylvania required
Political and community pressures may persuade schools to go to uniforms to
improve learning. But David Brunsma and others believe there is not enough
evidence of a direct relationship. In fact, he says requiring uniforms may even
increase discipline problems.
But researchers also say studies of uniform policies are often scientifically
limited. They say more work is needed to get better information.
And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy
Steinbach. For more on this debate, go to voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Steve