“Willingham had used results from the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults (SATA) (not to be confused with the SAT) to assess athletes’ reading levels, but according to the Provost, she used only the reading vocabulary subtest. Citing the SATA manual, he explained that the vocabulary subtest is not sufficient to determine overall reading performance. Furthermore, according to the Provost, Willingham apparently confused standard scores with grade equivalents, leading to a major error in interpretation.”
Willingham later claimed she combined the SATA results with ACT and SAT scores, which Bethel said is not a proper way to evaluate literacy.
The representation of student-athletes as described by Willingham is also unfair, he said. Bethel said as a reading and writing specialist at two different universities, he had only worked with three student-athletes who fit Willingham’s — and they had reading disabilities.
He went on to say:
“My point is that academic preparedness is more than reading fluency, and that limited fluency due to a disability can be overcome. Those three student-athletes with reading disabilities were capable of succeeding because they were highly prepared in other ways. Academic preparedness, like merit, includes standard achievement and aptitude factors, but it also includes non-cognitive factors such as motivation, resilience, and resourcefulness. The extent to which those three students displayed such qualities was inspiring, and the three of them are the kinds of success stories a reading specialist should be telling.”
Bethel also discussed the Institutional Review Board’s decision that Willingham needed a license to conduct her research, stating that this was standard research practice and Willingham should have known not to use identifiers.
Bethel has had his own concerns about the way athletes are admitted at UNC, but said hearing from Dean of Admissions Steve Farmer and other administrators has quelled many of his concerns. The university will no longer admit potential athletes whose first-year GPA is predicted to be less than 2.0, he said.
“I am not arguing that UNC has never admitted athletes who read at elementary levels or lower, nor am I making any judgments of Willingham’s character,” he said. “In fact, I believe she has had good intentions the whole time. Nevertheless, I am arguing that her methodology and anecdotes are not sufficient to substantiate her claims, and her choosing to publicize those claims has been irresponsible.”
You can read the entirety of the post here.