One issue missing in the debate over school uniforms is the positive impact they have on discipline and self-discipline, which are necessary preconditions for cognitive development and which separate effective from less effective schools.

Uniforms (along with an increase in the quantity and quality of homework, more school rules and their enforcement, greater teacher interest in students and other recommendations for improving our nation's school systems) are positively correlated with achievement because they aid in developing a structure between students and teachers and between pupils and rules of behavior without which learning is difficult. This structure, through organization of tasks, authority figures and role models, and school rules and regulations, assists pupils in increasing their capacity to regulate self, to concentrate, motivate and otherwise apply themselves to complete assignments.

Cognitive deficiencies are the preoccupation of those who favor "back to basics," sight reading, using phonics and computers and other methods of improving the ability of our nation's students to read, write and compute. Yet these deficiencies are the results of inadequate self-discipline brought about in part by the inability of some schools to improve discipline within which structured learning takes place.

Enforcement of a dress code has a place in the debate over educational reform and should receive a fair and detailed hearing, transcending, in the process, the "needs" of our youth to express their individuality through the clothing they wear to class.

JOHN VOLPE Washington

I am a Calvin Coolidge High School student, and I am completely against uniforms in the D.C. public schools. I don't believe that a dress code would make a difference in the way a student behaves or performs academically.

Having attended a private school for 10 years and having worn a uniform, I can say that a uniform did not appear to affect my behavior or academic achievement. Nor did it stop students from making fun of other students. There were those with $200 shoes and then there were those with $10 shoes. Wearing the school uniform did not solve the problem of those who have and those who do not have.

Unless the school system plans to have everyone wear the same socks, blouses, skirts, shoes, jackets, watches or other jewelry and hair styles, nothing will change.

TILIAYO OGUNMAKINWA Washington