Willingham’s Literacy Findings Discredited

By Ran Northam Posted April 11, 2014 at 6:15 pm

Story originally posted April 11, 2014, 4:20 p.m.

UNC released the findings of an independent review Friday that stated the test used by UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham was not a valid method to measure college-readiness.

Read the Report

The outside experts chosen to conduct the review were University of Minnesota Marvin D. Dunnette Distinguished Professor of Industrial-Organizational Psychology, Nathan R. Kuncel, Georgia State University associate professor in the Department of Psychology, Lee Branum-Martin, and University of Virginia assistant professor of higher education, Dennis Kramer. The names of the three experts were kept under wraps until the report was released.

Each person acted independently in the review, according to UNC, but they found similar results. The review looked into the use of the SATA (Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults) reading vocabulary subtest. The report said, in part, that the 25-question, multiple choice test was “not a true reading test and should not be used to draw conclusions about student reading ability”, “the data do not support the public claims about the students’ reading ability”, and “reading ability should not be reported as grade equivalents.”

Willingham took the SATA RV test results of 176 student-athletes and claimed that those tests found 60 percent of them read between fourth- and eight-grade levels.. In a follow-up email from Kramer, he said his review found that the average reading level among the 176 tests was a 12th-grade equivalent.

The 176 student-athletes represented a sample of the 1,800 total student-athletes at UNC between 2004 and 2012. However, that sample was not reported as being a random sample and therefore can’t be an accurate representation of an average of all 1,800 student-athletes.

Mary Willingham responded to WCHL’s request for an interview with this written statement: click here.

UNC Provost Jim Dean was not available for comment Friday.

UNC Directoy of Undergraduate Admissions, Steve Farmer responded to the findings of the expert reviews; click here.

***UNC Black Caucus Chair Debby Stroman Spoke with Aaron Keck***

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