You may recall that in a previous blog post we discussed the benefits of single-gender classrooms. Well, an article over at slate.com tackles the subject as well. Only this one is focused on debunking the seemingly fantastic news coming from the South Carolina Department of Education.

The Department recently surveyed 7,000 students in its schools, asking them questions about single-gender classrooms. The responses were startling.  Seventy six percent of children K-9 say that being in a single-gender classroom has given them more confidence. Ninety three percent of girls in grades K-2 reported increased motivation.

Read more about the survey at the following sites:

The slate.com article goes on to point out some of the flaws in this survey, including what should be considered its biggest — who cares whether students say they are more motivated or confident? What’s important when studying the effectiveness of an education program is how well the students do academically. This survey had nothing to do with that.

The Slate article also listed other problems with the survey. For instance, the students couldn’t answer “no change.” Their only options were “decrease” or “increase” when answering questions about motivation and confidence. The article claims the lack of “no change” as an option makes it more likely that students would say something positive. It goes back to the youthful need to please one’s elders, the author says.

Also, the survey was only given to students in single-gender classrooms. However, in South Carolina, to be in a single-gender classroom one must opt-in. That basically means that the kids surveyed were more likely to give positive answers because they had chosen this form of education voluntarily.

The last problem cited by the Slate article was essentially the placebo effect. Apparently something similar to the placebo effect in drug trials turns up when measuring the effectiveness of education programs. Just saying that change is coming and will be studied is sometimes enough to increase people’s perception of how well a school is doing.

It seems this South Carolina survey essentially tells us nothing, except perhaps the state of mind of students. That is, no doubt, important, but when it comes to measuring how well a particular program is doing, something more than feelings are needed.

To read the Slate article, go here.