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A comparison research study on the use of school uniforms and graduation, attendance, and suspension rates in East Tennessee

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: William Elihue Gouge
Abstract:
Graduation rates in Tennessee are 8 points below the state goal of 90%. Implementation of a school uniform policy may be a way to improve these rates by giving students increased school structure. The purpose of this quantitative, causal comparative study was to examine whether a significant difference exists in graduation, attendance, and suspension rates between a school that has a school uniform policy and a school that does not. Two public high schools in East Tennessee, one with and one without a school uniform policy, with similar demographics were compared. A second comparison was made after the implementation of a school uniform policy in one of the schools. Factors that promote successful implementation of a uniform policy for students, parents, and the community to accept the change to school uniforms were examined. The results of the study showed that a school uniform policy had a positive significant effect on improving the graduation rate of a rural school in East Tennessee when compared to a school of similar demographics. However, there was no significant effect on student attendance or suspension rates. The second comparison demonstrated a significant improvement in graduation rates at the same school after the implementation of a school uniform policy but no significant effect on attendance and suspension rates.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Page ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ................................................................................................ ii

LIST OF TABLES ............................................................................................................. vi CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION ................................................................................. 1 Problem Statement .................................................................................................. 4 Research Questions and Null Hypotheses .............................................................. 5 Professional Significance of the Study ................................................................... 7 Overview of Methodology ...................................................................................... 8 Definitions of Key Terms ....................................................................................... 9 CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE ............................................................. 12 Theoretical Framework ......................................................................................... 12 History and Impact of School Uniform Policies ................................................... 16 Parental Involvement in School Uniform Policy Implementation ........................ 29 Leveling the Playing Field .................................................................................... 31 Uniforms in Christian Schools .............................................................................. 34 Proponents of School Uniform Policies ................................................................ 35 Opposition to School Uniform Policies ................................................................ 37 The Role of School Leadership ............................................................................. 39 Legal Issues Surrounding School Uniform Policies ............................................. 45 Summary ............................................................................................................... 47

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CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY ......................................................................... 49 Design ................................................................................................................... 49 Data Gathering Methods ....................................................................................... 50 Instrumentation ..................................................................................................... 50 Ethical Considerations .......................................................................................... 52 Data Analysis ........................................................................................................ 53 CHAPTER FOUR: FINDINGS ........................................................................................ 54 Overall Findings.................................................................................................... 54 Analysis of Findings ............................................................................................. 62 CHAPTER FIVE: RESULTS, CONCLUSIONS, AND FUTURE IMPLICATIONS .... 72 Results and Conclusions ....................................................................................... 73 Future Implications ............................................................................................... 79 Recommendations for Future Research ................................................................ 83 REFERENCES ................................................................................................................. 85 APPENDICES .................................................................................................................. 90

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LIST OF TABLES Page Table 1. Demographic Information of the Dependent High School ................................. 56 Table 2. Demographic Information of the Independent High School .............................. 55 Table 3. Similar Schools: Dependent and Independent Schools ...................................... 57 Table 4. Dependent School: Before and After Uniforms ................................................. 57 Table 5. Dependent High School Graduation, Attendance, and Suspension Rates .......... 59 Table 6. Independent High School Graduation, Attendance, and Suspension Rates ....... 59 Table 7. Dependent High School Graduation, Attendance, and Suspension Rates before School Uniform Policy Implementation ................................................................ 60 Table 8. Number of Graduates, Seniors, Enrollment, Attendees, and Suspensions in the Dependent and Independent Schools after School Uniform Implementation at Dependent High School .................................................................................................... 61 Table 9. Number of Graduate, Seniors, Enrollment, Attendees, and Suspensions in the Dependent School before School Uniform Implementation ....................................... 62 Table 10. Z-Test for Two Proportions Graduation Calculator Results for the Dependent and Independent High Schools ....................................................................... 63 Table 11. Z-Test for Two Proportions Attendance Calculator Results for the Dependent and Independent High Schools ....................................................................... 64 Table 12. Z-Test for Two Proportions Suspension Calculator Results for the Dependent and Independent High Schools ....................................................................... 66 Table 13. Z-Test for Two Proportions Graduation Calculator Results for the Dependent School Before and After Uniform Implementation ........................................ 68 Table 14. Z-Test for Two Proportions Attendance Calculator Results for the Dependent School Before and After Uniform Implementation ........................................ 69 Table 15. Z-Test for Two Proportions Suspension Calculator Results for the Dependent School Before and After Uniform Implementation ........................................ 71

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CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION Public education is a pillar of American society. All children within U.S. borders—regardless of race, religion, gender, or citizenship—are given the opportunity to learn. In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to provide states with federal dollars for the fight against poverty. In 2001, President George W. Bush reauthorized this law through the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to keep children from being left behind in their education. The goal of NCLB is to bring more accountability reform to schools; therefore, all students must reach certain benchmarks on academic proficiency tests. If students in a school or school district do not meet academic proficiency requirements and other performance measures, the school or district may be put on a list that indicates they are not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). Reported data are characterized by (a) disability, (b) limited English proficiency (LEP), (c) economic disadvantage, (d) gender, and (e) ethnicity. If a subset of the student population does not demonstrate evidence of AYP over several years, then consequences may be applied and corrective measures taken to improve the school or school district (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Leaders of schools and school districts across the country are looking for methods to improve their schools. Requiring that students wear school uniforms may be one of the factors that can improve a school or school district. God implemented a dress code for Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden as He replaced their aprons of fig leaves with coats of skin (Gen. 3). This Biblical example shows the importance of appropriate dress,

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and our God demonstrated His supremacy in leadership since the aprons that Adam and Eve had sewn together were insufficient to cover their nakedness. This example also shows that the ways of God are right and sufficient, but the ways of man are the ways of death (Prov. 24:25). It is because of man’s fall that Christ came and died on the cross to cover our sin. When we call on Jesus to save our soul, we are covered by His blood; God sees us as if we had never sinned because of what Jesus did on the cross (Heb. 9). This is the supreme covering, and shows the necessity of the right covering. Research on significant connections between school uniforms and graduation, attendance, and suspension rates produced beneficial information to school systems searching for means for making educational improvements. In the current study, schools in East Tennessee (see Appendix A) with similar demographics were compared based upon their school uniform policies. Each school’s report card on the Tennessee Department of Education website reports demographics about the school and its graduation, attendance, and suspension rates. These schools in East Tennessee were called to determine if they had a school uniform policy (see Appendix B). Student populations, ethnic diversity, as well as free and reduced lunch percentages were the pertinent demographics for this study. The review of the literature demonstrates the history and impact of school uniform policies. This type of policy creates a level playing field for student education: Regardless of family income, all students look the same and, therefore, should be treated the same at school. God’s Word proclaims in Ezekiel 27:24 that merchants would trade rich apparel held in cedar chests to the children of Israel. These clothes did not look the same as other clothes as they were blue with embroidery and bound in cords. This

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concept of fashion and trend-following still fills America’s public schools. It is often easy to tell which students’ families have money and which ones do not by the clothes that students wear. School uniforms create a more level playing field. Many Christian schools and other non-sectarian private schools have utilized a school uniform policy for years, and current research indicates that public schools can benefit from school uniform policies as well (“Benefits of School Uniforms,” 1999; Boutelle, 2008; Chen, 2008; DaCosta, 2006; Konheim-Kalkstein, 2006; Mancini, 1997; U.S. Department of Education, 1996; Walmsley, 2011; West, Tidwell, Bomba, & Elmore, 1999). Matthew 2 tells the history of wise men who came from the east to find the Governor that would rule Israel. These men were known to be different, apparently because of their attire, speech, and gifts that they brought to see Jesus. King Herod was troubled—and all of Jerusalem with him—because of these wise men. The way a person appears in public causes an internal reaction as well as makes an impact on others. In addition, the internal confidence that comes from looking nice and being ready to take on what is ahead is a trait many students may need. When people look their best, those around them may be affected by their appearance. For example, the wise men found the chief priest and scribes and demanded of them where Christ would be born, and they were told to go to Bethlehem of Judaea. Furthermore, teachers may treat students differently if one looks better or has better clothes than other students, but a school uniform policy helps give everyone a fair chance of education without the bias of family income. Arguments are made for and against uniforms, and research shows that the role of leadership is vital to a successful implementation of a school uniform policy (Mancini 1997; Pakhare, 2007; Sasson, 2009). The literature also demonstrates that the courts of

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the United States have primarily supported public schools when they implement a school uniform policy (Anderson, 2002; Walsh, 2008). Problem Statement In 2007, 2008, and 2009, the average graduation rate in Tennessee was 82%. In 2009, 199 schools were on the high priority list for not meeting AYP (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Educational leaders are searching for programs or techniques that can improve their graduation rates by at least 8%. The purpose of this study was to compare graduation, attendance, and suspension rates to determine if there was a significant difference between a public high school that requires school uniforms and a demographically similar public high school that does not require school uniforms. Another comparison was made of the public high school that had school uniforms before and after policy implementation. In other words, School A was compared to School B, and in the second comparison, School A was compared to itself before and after school uniform implementation. Requiring school uniforms may increase the number of students who graduate by giving them needed structure. Attendance may also improve when students have guidelines that foster positive behaviors, and suspensions may decrease when teachers and administrators help students with the transition to the professional demeanor that comes from a successful school uniform policy. Appearance has an important influence on those around us, as Scripture indicates. In 1 Samuel 16:7, God was about to have Samuel anoint David, a shepherd boy without many distinguishing characteristics, to be King. He did not have great stature, nor did he have fancy clothing; however, God told Samuel that man looks on the outside appearance, but God looks on the heart.

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Furthermore, several sources endorse school uniforms as one possible measure to help school systems decrease behavior issues and boost school security (Chen, 2008; U.S. Department of Education, 1996). A study by Draa (2005) found that at six public schools in large cities in Ohio, school uniforms had enhanced student (a) graduation, (b) behavior, and (c) attendance rates. This study compared specific school data from the state of Tennessee website to determine if there was a significant connection between school uniforms and graduation, attendance, and suspension rates. The schools were contacted to determine if they had a school uniform policy and how many seniors they had for specific years. If the school that requires school uniforms had higher graduation and attendance rates and a lower suspension rate than those that did not require uniforms, then it is likely that other schools will be able to implement a school uniform policy with success. If the results showed no difference in graduation, attendance, and suspension rates between schools that had school uniforms and those that did not, then administrators and policy makers may be wise to search for other strategies to improve their schools. Psalms 89:47 reminds us of how short our time is on earth. King David, the writer of Psalms under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, was known to be a man after God’s own heart, and he reminded us of how precious time is to our life. Research can help school leaders find plans that work for the given situation and not waste valuable time on interventions that are not proven. Research Questions and Null Hypotheses In examining the significant differences between school uniform policies and graduation, attendance, and suspension rates, this study answered the following research questions:

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Research question 1. Is there a significant difference between school uniform policies and graduation rates in demographically similar high schools? Null hypothesis (H 0 1). There is no statistically significant difference between school uniform policies and graduation rates in demographically similar high schools. Research question 2. Is there a significant difference between school uniform policies and attendance rates in demographically similar high schools? Null hypothesis (H 0 2). There is no statistically significant difference between school uniform policies and attendance rates in demographically similar high schools. Research question 3. Is there a significant difference between school uniform policies and suspension rates in demographically similar high schools? Null hypothesis (H 0 3). There is no statistically significant difference between school uniform policies and suspension rates in demographically similar high schools. Research question 4. Is there a significant difference between school uniform policies and graduation rates before and after the implementation of a school uniform policy? Null hypothesis (H 0 4). There is no statistically significant difference between school uniform policies and graduation rates before and after the implementation of a school uniform policy. Research question 5. Is there a significant difference between school uniform policies and attendance rates before and after the implementation of a school uniform policy? Null hypothesis (H 0 5). There is no statistically significant difference between school uniform policies and attendance rates before and after the implementation of a

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school uniform policy. Research question 6. Is there a significant difference between school uniform policies and suspension rates before and after the implementation of a school uniform policy? Null hypothesis (H 0 6). There is no statistically significant difference between school uniform policies and suspension rates before and after the implementation of a school uniform policy. Professional Significance of the Study School administrators are under pressure to make AYP under the NCLB Act. However, this pressure does not compare to the pressure our Savior went through on the cross for the salvation of all who will repent. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (King James Version [KJV]). Jesus endured the cross, despised the shame, but finished the work of Calvary. Now, the entire world has the opportunity to have eternal life. The pressure administrators feel must be kept in perspective if right interventions for improvement are to be administered. The focus of the NCLB Act is school improvement based on (a) accountability, (b) flexibility, (c) research-based education, and (d) parent options. High schools (i.e., grades 9-12) must meet performance benchmarks in math, English, and graduation rates under NCLB. Grades 3-8 must meet the performance benchmarks in math reading and attendance rates. If a school does not meet achievement standards for 2 years, that school is put on a high priority list (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010).

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The following student groups and subgroups are considered each year for AYP status: (a) Whites, (b) Hispanics, (c) African Americans, (d) Native Americans, (e) Asian/Pacific Islanders, (f) the economically disadvantaged, (g) students with disabilities, and (h) English language learners. If a school misses the same goal for the federal benchmark for 2 years, it is placed on a high priority list. Schools or districts that are at risk of being on the high priority list are alerted by the Tennessee Department of Education, which offers additional support and assistance. If a school did not meet one or more benchmarks for 1 year, then that school is considered a target school (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Many factors must be considered when attempting to measure successful implementation of a school uniform policy. Legal ramifications in dealing with challenges by parents and the community were reviewed in the literature, as were leadership in the educational setting and the perseverance necessary for school uniform implementation. Leadership strategies are part of the design for successful school uniform policy implementation. Christian leaders specifically should remember where they were before they called on Jesus to help their mind to remain focused on the task at hand. Lamentations 3:21 says, “This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope” (KJV). Leadership must see the big picture, understand the objective that is to be attained, and communicate those goals to the stakeholders. Overview of Methodology This quantitative study employed a causal comparative design to demonstrate the significant connections between school uniform policies and school graduation, attendance, and suspension rates. The schools under study were two rural schools in East

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Tennessee: one that required school uniforms and a geographically and demographically similar school that did not require school uniforms. The statistics being compared were the archival data of graduation, attendance, and suspension rates that are stored on the Tennessee Department of Education website. A Z-test was employed to determine significance with the Z value and P value being considered. Definitions of Key Terms Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP). A measure of a school’s or school system’s ability to meet required federal benchmarks with specific performance standards from year to year (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Administrators. Directors of schools, including (a) principals, (b) supervisors, and (c) assistant principals (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Attendance rate. The average number of days students attend school compared to the average number of days students are enrolled (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Attendee. A student who is present and attending school. Charter school. An elementary or secondary school in the United States that receives public money but has been freed from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to other public schools in exchange for some type of accountability for producing certain results that are set forth in each school’s charter. As an alternative to other public schools, charter schools are not allowed to charge tuition since they are part of the public education system (Christensen, 2007). Dependent high school. For the purpose of this study, a school that requires school uniforms.

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Enrollment. The total number of students registered to attend classes at a specific school. Free or reduced lunch. A program that provides free or reduced meals at school to children from families who meet certain income criteria (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Graduation rate. A federally required benchmark that calculates the percent of on-time graduates with a regular high school diploma. GED and special education diplomas are not allowed to count as a regular high school diploma under regulations from the U.S. Department of Education (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). High priority school/school system. A school/school system that has missed the same federal benchmark for more than 1 consecutive year (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Independent high school. For the purpose of this study, a school that does not have a school uniform policy. No Child Left Behind (NCLB). A law implemented during the 2002-2003 school year that requires all students to be proficient in math, reading, and language arts by 2014 and to meet graduation and attendance standards (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Rural. Portions of the country where the population density is less than urban areas; often includes areas where agriculture is practiced. School uniform. For the purpose of this study, khaki pants and a polo shirt, at minimum.

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Suspension rate. Based on the amount of time a student is not allowed to attend school for a period not greater than 10 days and remains on the school rolls (Tennessee Department of Education, 2010). Urban. Densely populated areas with vast human features, such as (a) high rise buildings, (b) sidewalks, (c) industries, and (d) interstate highways. Z-test. Compares random sample and population means to determine if there is a significant difference.

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CHAPTER TWO: REVIEW OF LITERATURE Administrators and decision makers need strategies to improve high school graduation, attendance, and suspension rates. An effective approach to achieving the desired structure needed for school improvements may be found in school uniform policies. School leadership with the ability to discern practical interventions can determine through research if school uniforms are a sensible solution for improving their specific schools. Theoretical Framework Moral absolutism and social cognitive theories provide the theoretical framework for this study of school uniforms. Moral absolutism adheres to the way of moral right as declared by an accepted document, in this case the Bible, not on the situation being presented in given circumstances. This study was based on the premise that morality is defined by the Bible, not by the trends or beliefs of society. Social cognitive theory advocates that learning comes by imitating observed actions. In other words, children emulate the behaviors that they observe. Moral absolutism theory. Clothing is mentioned throughout the Bible: Adam and Eve with the aprons of fig leaves, the coats of skin made for them by God, the coat of many colors worn by Joseph, to sackcloth put on by Jacob after he received the news of the death of his son, the priests and their robes, David with armor that was not proven, etc. In the New Testament, Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes, which was a sign to the shepherds. John the Baptist was known for his clothing of camel’s hair. These

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illustrations show the significance of the right clothes for the specific circumstances and indicate the importance of considering school uniforms God’s Holy Word is the one eternal thing on which we can put our mortal hands. The Bible is God’s fixed focal point of reference in a world that is always changing. While the Word of God is forever settled in heaven, all people have opinions about the issues of life. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the L ORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (KJV). Christians must set self aside and view the world through the lens of the Bible. A key verse for the researcher’s worldview is 1 Peter 3:10-11: For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. (KJV) There is only one God; however, He manifests Himself in three persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. His way is perfect. We as people are not perfect because of our sin. Romans 3:10 teaches, “There is none righteous” (KJV). This sinful nature came as the result of the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 3:1 says that the serpent was “more subtle than any beast of the field” (KJV). Satan came to Eve in the form of one of the creatures of the garden. “Hath God said . . . ?” (Gen. 3:1) are a few of the words the devil used to deceive Eve (KJV). She and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit, and after they did so, they both knew that they were naked. Just seconds earlier, they were innocent and did not know they were naked, but the tree of knowledge brought the realization of a need for covering their bodies.

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Not long after they finished their leaf aprons, they heard the voice of God as He walked in the garden in the cool of the day. It was a familiar voice that they had heard many times, but this time fear was in their heart, as Genesis 3:10 says that they “hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God” (KJV). Adam and Eve learned that their fig leaves were not enough to cover their nakedness. They also realized that they could not hide from God since He was their Creator. They began to make excuses for their sin, but Romans 2:1 says, “Thou are inexcusable, O man” (KJV). Genesis 3:21 says that “God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (KJV). This action was God’s dress code for Adam and Eve after their fall. The coats of skin were made possible by the sacrifice of an innocent substitute. They were the ones that deserved to die, but God made a substitute sacrifice. These coverings were a type of what the Lamb of God did for the entire world. Men, women, boys and girls can come to Jesus and be born again, and their sin can be forgiven because of His sacrifice at Calvary. After we are born again, Titus 2:14 says we should be “a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (KJV). Salvation is by grace, a gift of God (Rom. 6:23); however, after we have been converted, we should live according to the morals and values taught in the Bible to demonstrate our faith in Christ. These illustrations give the Biblical direction for school leaders to consider when implementing a school uniform policy. Social cognitive theory. Social cognitive theory describes how behaviors are learned. Learning is comprised of (a) individual learning styles, (b) rigorous and relevant curriculum, and (c) a supportive network that includes tutoring, technological support, and family support. Individual learning styles, such as visual, auditory, and kinesthetic,

Full document contains 126 pages
Abstract: Graduation rates in Tennessee are 8 points below the state goal of 90%. Implementation of a school uniform policy may be a way to improve these rates by giving students increased school structure. The purpose of this quantitative, causal comparative study was to examine whether a significant difference exists in graduation, attendance, and suspension rates between a school that has a school uniform policy and a school that does not. Two public high schools in East Tennessee, one with and one without a school uniform policy, with similar demographics were compared. A second comparison was made after the implementation of a school uniform policy in one of the schools. Factors that promote successful implementation of a uniform policy for students, parents, and the community to accept the change to school uniforms were examined. The results of the study showed that a school uniform policy had a positive significant effect on improving the graduation rate of a rural school in East Tennessee when compared to a school of similar demographics. However, there was no significant effect on student attendance or suspension rates. The second comparison demonstrated a significant improvement in graduation rates at the same school after the implementation of a school uniform policy but no significant effect on attendance and suspension rates.