North Carolina's top academic officer said Friday that reading specialist Mary Willingham's findings on athlete literacy levels are flawed, though she stands firm that her research is "100 percent correct."
In a meeting of the school's faculty council, provost James W. Dean Jr. said there is "absolutely no basis whatsoever in the dataset to make any claim about the literacy of our student-athletes."
In a CNN story last week, Willingham said her research of 183 football or basketball players at UNC from 2004-12 found 60 percent reading at fourth- to eighth-grade levels and roughly 10 percent below a third-grade level. Dean said the findings were based largely on standardized scores in a 10-minute timed vocabulary test that isn't an appropriate way to measure literacy levels.
Dean called it "flawed analysis" and said it was unfair to use the data to say students can't read. Dean said the school will have outside consultants review their analysis of Willingham's data.
"I'm not playing some kind of trick with this data," Dean said. "This isn't marginal. This is really quite central to the claims that have been made. And I take no joy in this. I think it's very sad, actually."