Analytics and School Attendance: A Laundry Story

Ariella Brown,

Ariella Brown is a social media consultant, editor, and freelance writer who frequently writes about the application of technology to business. She holds a PhD in English from the City University of New York. Her Twitter handle is @AriellaBrown.

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Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/8/2017 4:52:35 PM

Ariella, yes, uniforms do seem to be very common in the UK, but I checked and they are not universally required.

I agree that many parents prefer them and believe they eliminate clothing competition. Like you, I've observed that kids still find subtle ways to compete.

I don't get the tension that some families have over clothing, even with little kids. As long as the clothing is safe, warm enough for the weather, and covers the vital areas, the kid can wear what she likes.

Many people push for uniforms in schools in low-income communities, the same communities where laundry is problematic. Requiring uniforms adds to clothing expenses, and adds to the laundry burden.

In summary, it's clear that many parents like school uniforms. But lots of research devoted to the subject hasn't produced compelling evidence of benefit to the children.



Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/8/2017 2:59:07 PM

I see some fluctuations in the price of gasoline (usually tied to holidays like Memorial and Labor Days), but I'm unaware of any product or service where the consumer price has gone down in any meaningful way in the last 25 years.

Perhaps the A2 hive mind can come up with some examples.

Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/8/2017 2:44:09 PM

@Terry Too true! I'm very keenly aware of the increased cost of some of life's necessities -- even basic produce. My daughter just asked me why we were paying so much for peaches now. It's because in my area, there is no lower price on them than $1.49 a pount, and that does represent a 50% increase in price over last year.

Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/8/2017 2:42:27 PM

@meta You really dug up quite a number of sources. As a parent with kids in a school that requires uniforms, I do take issue with some absurd stipulation -- like mandating that the school logo be embroidered on the sweaters and sweatshirts. That adds a cost of $6 per piece with no increased utility. But I do think that some parents like having uniforms if only to simplify the answer to the question of "What should I wear?" from their kids. 

While some intend it to limit competiition, though, I know from my kids that the students then look for other markers, like designer bags or shoes (shoes not yet uniform only). That doesn't really affect academic performance, though it is meant to address social pressures. 

I do wonder about drawing comparisons across countries. Whenever I see a school depicted in the UK (even the equivalent of our public schools) the kids are in uniforms. It seems that it is the default there rather than the exception.


Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/8/2017 2:30:27 PM

Yes indeed, Ariella... the line between subsistence and thriving moves higher up the socio-economic food chain every quarter it seems. And it doesn't appear that cost of living indices really reflect this harsh new reality.

Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/4/2017 8:11:43 AM

This piece from Education Week discusses national research studies on school uniforms.

David L. Brunsma, sociology professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia conducted major national studies. Bottom Line: "...uniform policies don't curb violence or behavioral problems in schools. They don't cultivate student self-esteem and motivation. They don't balance the social-status differences that often separate students. And they don't improve academic achievement. (In fact, uniforms may even be associated with a small detrimental effect on achievement in reading, his research shows.)"

Journalist's Resource offers a collection of abstracts from several studies. They include a slew of reasons to doubt the value of school uniforms:

"The results do not suggest any significant association between school uniform policies and achievement."

"Contrary to current discourse, the authors found a negative effect of uniforms on student academic achievement." - (this is also from Brunsma)

"Although the effect size was small, students from schools without uniforms reported higher self-perception scores than students from schools with uniform policies."

Also included is a reference to an article criticizing some of Brunsma's methods, and a small scale study which reports some positive effects.

I dug up the full paper on that that study. It examined one single school district, and most of the reported benefits were attibuted to one segment of students. The researchers themselves outline a number of limitations in the data, some of them significant - such as not having centralized records of the time when schools began requiring uniforms.

Also significant the last study mentioned in Journalist's Resource, which looks at the role of uniforms on spending. Uniforms don't replace other apparel purchasing or spending. "Rather, uniforms and nonuniform apparel appear to be complements in consumers' purchases, resulting in greater household expenditures on nonuniform apparel."

Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/3/2017 8:08:33 PM

@metabrown I haven't researched it. I do notice, though, that as the article I cited here said, it's a trend that has grown over the past few decades. A quick search now yielded this: It includes a link

 A review of related literature is provided along with results of the opinions obtained from 604 seventh- and eighth-grade middle school students attending a public school in Nevada that had recently initiated a school uniform policy. Improvements in discipline data and school police data were also examined. Results highlighted the perceived benefits (i.e., decreases in discipline, gang involvement, and bullying and increases in safety, ease of going to school, confidence, and self-esteem) of wearing a uniform to school, as reported by students through a survey instrument. The results focus on gender, grade level, and racial/ethnic differences in students' responses. Few significant differences were found. One benefit was found between genders, six benefits between grade levels, and three benefits related to racial/ethnic groups.

Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/3/2017 7:26:33 PM

Ariella, have you seen any research supporting the theory that uniforms cause positive social effects? If so, please share references.

Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/3/2017 3:08:42 PM


And I read just this morning that Colgate donates toothbrushes and toothpaste for school backpack programs through Volunteers of America.

(Yay, Colgate.)>

@metabrown a smart move on their part. Whatever is donated is tax decutible, after all, and those involved in the program will inevitably feel some loyalty to the brand.

Re: A Clean Break
  • 8/3/2017 3:04:15 PM

@kq4ym @Metabrown In some public schools, uniforms are optional. That does diminsh their positive effect in eliminating any competition with respect to fashion, but I suppose that was the only way to make most people happy. There's an interesting article on the uniform question here:

There's long been debate surrounding how to dress our kids. Over the past 20 years, there have been lawsuits brought by the ACLU fighting school uniform policies, endorsements of uniforms from past presidents, and academic studies falling on both sides of the argument. The trend toward uniforms, meanwhile, has increased ever steadily; by the end of the 2013-2014 school year, one-fifth of US public schools had adopted uniform policies.

It suggests that Bill Clinton may be to blame:

I challenge all our schools to teach character education, to teach good values and good citizenship," Bill Clinton said during his State of the Union address in 1996, a few months before he won reelection. "And if it means that teenagers will stop killing each other over designer jackets, then our public schools should be able to require their students to wear uniforms."


BTW when I was a kid, my school didn't have uniforms, but it started to implement the policy just after I left. It's much more common now, and I've seen school start requiring them more and more. 

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