Monday, August 08, 2005

The March Of The Students

It appears as though students in Dallas area schools will be getting a new look when they go back to school this year: (if needed, use Id: none [at] password: 666666)
Dallas area public schools are being overcome by khaki, deluged with Dockers and packed with polo shirts. Big and small, rich and poor, high and low performing schools and districts alike have embraced uniformity in their battles against everything from gangs to peer pressure - and to promote unity and boost test scores.

Despite research to the contrary, educators who support standardized dress say they are convinced their policies will improve their schools.

From Dallas to Plano, DeSoto to Mesquite and beyond, those theories will be put to the test this year.

"School has become so casual," said Cathy Rideout, associate superintendent for instruction for the Mesquite school district. "They dress for sand volleyball the same way you dress for school."

This year, the district's 15,000 middle and high school students face a new mandatory standardized dress policy, which covers everything down to shoelaces.

"If we didn't think it would improve academics, we wouldn't do it," Dr. Rideout said. "It's going to be a lot of trouble for our principals" to enforce the changes. But, she noted, they believe it's the best thing for students.

But some parents and students aren't so sure, and they have opposed uniforms at school board meetings and in district surveys. Their concerns include the cost and students' loss of individuality.
As a method of combating gang activity, our California elementary school district implemented a student uniform policy a few years ago. Their was an immediate and positive difference in student behavior. Among other benefits, it lent a "business-like" tone to the learning environment, and helped keep focus on teaching and learning.

When my fellow parents in the community raised the "student individuality" argument, I politely pointed out that the best way for their child to demonstrate their "individuality" wasn't the clothes that they wore to school, but through academic achievement, athletic accomplishment, and artistic expression, all of which the school provided abundant opportunities for their children to participate in.

Student uniforms may not work in every case, but for our mid-sized elementary school district, they certainly did help make a difference.
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