In order to create a distinct school culture, many private schools have long required their pupils to wear uniforms. Uniforms create a visible connection among schoolmates, and reduce the visibility of wealth differences, at some cost to personal expression. In the early 1990s, California’s Long Beach Unified became America’s first public school district to require uniforms for its students. The students’ strong improvement in academic performance drew national attention.
Are uniforms a magic answer to urban school improvement? Subsequent research burst the bubble. There does not appear to be an automatic correlation between uniforms and learning. Implementing uniforms can create a sudden and visible change in a school environment, but it is up to the school’s leaders to create the less visible changes that drive student learning. Arguments and claims on all sides are summarized here by PublicSchoolReview and discussed more extensively on Greatschools.org.
The next post explores one of the major themes of school reform: small schools.