Original URL: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/216/metro/School_chief_failed_literacy_test+.shtml

School chief failed literacy test
Lawrence official put others on leave
Associated Press

LAWRENCE - Superintendent of Schools Wilfredo T. Laboy, who recently put two dozen teachers on unpaid leave for failing a basic English proficiency test, has flunked a required literacy test three times, The Eagle-Tribune reported yesterday.

Laboy, who called his failing scores ''frustrating'' and ''emotional,'' blamed a lack of preparation and concentration, and his lack of English skills. Spanish is his first language.

''It bothers me because I'm trying to understand the congruence of what I do here every day and this stupid test,'' Laboy said. ''That's what, emotionally, I'm so upset about.''

State Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll said he is aware of Laboy's troubles with the test, but would not say how many chances Laboy would be given to pass or what the consequences of another failure could be.

He commended Laboy on an ''excellent job'' leading the district, but said ''he's going to have to pass.''

''He told me he needs more time to prepare for the test. I told him, `Fine.' ... The situation will only get serious if he goes much longer without passing,'' Driscoll said.

Since 1998, all educators - from teachers to superintendents - have had to pass the Communications and Literacy Skills Test, which measures basic reading and writing skills, including vocabulary, punctuation, grammar, spelling, and capitalization.

Laboy barely passed the reading section on his second attempt, scoring the minimum required grade, he said last week.

He also failed the writing portion three times, and a section requiring test-takers to transcribe a passage read over an audiotape, using proper punctuation and spelling.

Candidates must pass all sections of the test in a single sitting, and cannot appeal their scores, according to the state education department website.

''What brought me down was the rules of grammar and punctuation,'' Laboy said. ''English being a second language for me, I didn't do well in writing. If you're not an English teacher, you don't look at the rules on a regular basis.''

Laboy, who receives a 3 percent pay hike this month that will raise his salary to $156,560, recently put 24 teachers on unpaid administrative leave because they failed a basic English test, which has been required since voters passed a law last fall requiring English-only classrooms.

Driscoll said he is willing to give Laboy more time to prepare.

This story ran on page B2 of the Boston Globe on 8/4/2003. Copyright 2003 Globe Newspaper Company.