Follow-up: Do School Dress Codes Make Any Difference to Behavior and Academic Performance?

High school students answering a question in class

High school students in uniform answering a question in classI’d like to thank you for the positive feedback and interesting comments about my recent blog, “School Dress Codes-Needed Rules or Society Gone Crazy?”. One reader asked an important question; Do school dress codes and uniforms actually make a difference concerning behavior and school performance? Feeling that this question was compelling, I spent a significant amount of time researching the subject. What I found was not only a wide range of conclusions but also a lack of recent information. Most of the research came from before 2009! Never-the-less, I am happy to present some findings here.


In 1994, about 14% of public and private schools in the US required a school uniform. As of 2014, 23% have a uniform policy. School officials will state that since implementing the wearing of uniforms there is more “order,” “focus” and “higher achievement” with the students. But, do the studies agree?


Long Beach Unified School District, located in a large, struggling urban area, found in 1994 that school crime decreased 36%, sexual offenses fell 74% and fights between students dropped 51% after the policy went into effect. In addition, uniforms helped to easily identified trespassers on school property and fostered a community and school spirit. However, there was no notable increase in academic success at all.


Many other studies had similar finding. Less behavioral issues seem to arise in schools with uniforms but this does not translate into better academic performance.  A study done from 1994 to 2002 at 64 high schools in Ohio’s eight largest public school districts found that wearing uniforms had improved graduation, behavior and attendance rates but had no effect on academic performance.


It is striking to see the discrepancies of opinions between parent and teacher perceptions concerning school uniform programs and dress codes as noted at:






Clearly, school personal have much stronger positive experiences about the policy than parents though these questions did not relate at all to academic performance. In my opinion, I believe that part of the divergent views is caused by parents not having a full appreciation of the challenges teachers face on a daily basis concerning school discipline. Teaching in a chaotic atmosphere filled with visual disruptions is mission impossible. Uniforms limit student preoccupation with their looks along with distractions from students who show up in provocative or outlandish wear.


On the other hand, there are those who feel that uniforms can actually mask many potential problems. Some were concerned that gang members would be camouflaged. Others felt that a drastic change in look by a student would indicate a psychological issue which school personnel would quickly be alerted to and able to handle.


With the wide range of pros and cons relating to school uniforms, some suggestions which I found helpful were:

  1. Students and parents should be part of the selection process when choosing school uniforms.
  2. Students can dress casually to school once a week in order to help them develop a sense of fashion, independent thinking, and perhaps help school personal recognize gang initiation or psychological issues.
  3. Perhaps a general concept of uniform is enough for some school districts such as the 3Cs – clean, comfortable and covered up.


I personally am quite curious as to why better behavior and attendance do not translate into better academic success.  Any other ideas on the topic are welcome.


High school students answering a question in class

3 Responses to Follow-up: Do School Dress Codes Make Any Difference to Behavior and Academic Performance?

  1. Gordon Wetmore says:

    I think the studies that showed uniforms or dress codes had improved graduation did show that there was an overall improvement in academic performance, although grade point averages may not show it. Think of how little weight is needed to tip a balance scale one way or the other. A mote of dust, seemingly insignificant, can send one side down and the other up. That miniscule measure for the students who would otherwise not have graduated was very significant, the difference between being afloat or drowning.

  2. Monica says:

    Academic success is an outcome of teacher instructional practice, culturally relevant pedagogy, inspiring the student, tutoring, teaching standards, classroom management, and student participation, NOT WHAT STUDENTS WEAR (emphasis) to school.

    There are communities and countries wear students dress poorly, but perform well academically.

    There are urban schools all over the country that have continuously scored F’s and D’s (and scored low in attendance) on state report cards that wear school uniforms.

    Reearch does no

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