UNC-CH: Outside researchers refute claim of low athlete reading levels
Posted April 11, 2014
Chapel Hill, N.C. — Outside experts hired by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say research data doesn't support claims of widespread low literacy levels among student-athletes at the school.
Academic adviser Mary Willingham has said that most of the 183 basketball and football players she reviewed from 2004 to 2012 read at an eighth-grade level or below. Her data was featured in reports on CNN, ESPN and HBO in recent months.
In its report, CNN didn't use SAT or ACT scores but rather a custom calculation to measure the reading skills of the student-athletes.
UNC-Chapel Hill officials rebutted Willingham's claims in January, saying that an internal review found that more than 97 percent of the first-year student-athletes enrolled between 2004 and 2012 exceeded CNN's threshold. The majority of those who didn't eventually graduated, officials said.
The school then asked researchers at the University of Virginia, the University of Minnesota and Georgia State University to analyze the data independently, and UNC-Chapel Hill administrators said Friday that their findings back up the the stance that the majority of the school's student-athletes "scored at or above college entry level on the SATA Reading Vocabulary subtest."
SATA, the Scholastic Abilities Test for Adults, was given to some student-athletes shortly after arriving on campus as part of a screening process to identify possible learning differences or learning disabilities.
The researchers said the test shouldn't be used to draw conclusions about overall reading ability.
Willingham has said she stands by her research.