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The Right Fit: Principals on School Uniforms
August 2013, Volume 36, Issue 12
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It’s been over a decade since NAESP first surveyed the nation’s principals on school uniforms. This year, NAESP partnered with Lands’ End once again to investigate school uniforms, and the 2013 results reflect an interesting trend: Interest in school uniforms is on the rise. In 2000, only 21 percent of public schools had uniforms, a formal dress code policy, or plans to implement one. That number has more than doubled, according to this year’s survey.
“Principals are charged with developing and maintaining a positive and safe school culture,” said NAESP executive director Gail Connelly. “We know that a school uniform policy can help reduce instances of classroom discipline and bullying, as well as improve student safety and attendance. The use of school uniforms, whether in public or private schools, has a powerful influence on school culture in ways that contribute to greater levels of student achievement.”
The impact of a school uniform policy on student success and culture is clear, according to principals surveyed. Sixty-four percent of principals said uniforms positively impacted student achievement at their school, and 77 percent said uniforms helped boost school pride. A sizeable percentage of principals also observed improvements in areas such as classroom discipline (85 percent) and student safety (79 percent) as a result of dress code policies.
Principals reported success with uniforms at their school, but what about outside of school? Most principals (83 percent) said that uniforms have improved their school’s image in the community. Parents were also pleased: An overwhelming majority agreed that their school’s policy helped eliminate wardrobe battles with kids (94 percent) and made it easier to get kids ready in the morning (92 percent).
Budgets are a major contributing factor to parent appreciation of dress codes. Most principals (90 percent) said it made shopping easier for parents, with 66 percent of school leaders saying they allowed parents to shop at a retailer of their choice—as long as they followed the formal dress code guidelines. Overall, 86 percent of principals said school uniforms were more cost-effective than regular apparel.
In terms of implementing a dress code, principals took a number of different routes. Typically, the idea to develop dress code policies began with principals (77 percent), followed by parents (23 percent). More than half (51 percent) of parents were consulted before the school adopted a school uniform or formal dress code policy. An overwhelming 90 percent of parents currently support the formal dress code policy.
Still, despite many schools’ successes with uniforms, the majority of school leaders (61 percent) did not have a uniform or dress code policy in place when surveyed. When asked why, 38 percent claimed that implementing a school uniform policy has not come up as an option; 31 percent feel their current dress code is sufficient; and 22 percent felt parents would be/have been resistant to a policy. Only eight percent cited prohibitive cost as a factor.
The survey’s results show both an increase in interest in school uniform and dress code policies, along with diverse opinions on how the policies are implemented. John Maher, senior vice president of Lands’ End Outfitters, made the point that survey’s intention is to, “provide schools and parents with valuable information as the want for school uniforms continues to grow in their communities.” School leaders can now look to this survey when considering creating a school uniform policy for their students.
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