Willingham coverage omitted key facts


I was especially concerned with the DTH’s recent coverage of Mary Willingham, and your strict portrayal of her as an embattled crusader fighting for the rights of student-athletes. While I do believe that Willingham truly believes in her cause, she has come under criticism for a simple reason — because her “research” was wrong.

Willingham used the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults, a 10-minute reading vocabulary subtest that has essentially nothing to do with reading comprehension.

SATA always recommends testing reading comprehension separately. From the examiner’s manual: “Any standardized test purporting to provide a comprehensive measure of reading that does not assess sentence or passage comprehension should be considered inadequate.”

Willingham then misinterpreted this already incorrect data. The SATA results can be expressed as raw scores, standard scores, percentiles or grade equivalents. Willingham’s data was in standard scores, but she reported them as if they were grade equivalents.

For example, if a student was to score an “eight” on Willingham’s test, she reported them as reading at an eighth grade level — instead of at a level consistent with a high school graduate, which is what it is supposed to mean. In essence, the data is virtually meaningless.

While I do not deny that Willingham cares about her students and truly believes that she is helping, and it’s true that much needs to be done in the area of athletic reform, she still provided a national news outlet with data that is incorrect and humiliating to our University and our student-athletes.
For the DTH to portray her as a bold pioneer, without once mentioning the fact that her research is flawed, only perpetuates the bad publicity that our University does not deserve.

Sasha Seymore ’15
Global studies

Thanks for reading.

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