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Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

Jeffrey S. Solochek

Jeffrey S. Solochek writes about schools and education for the Tampa Bay Times. Solochek has covered the school districts in Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties since joining the Times in 2000. He also oversees The Gradebook education blog.

Phone: (813) 909-4614


Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

  1. Florida education news: Shakeup, tossed out, safe passage and more


    TOP JOBS: A shakeup of Hernando district administrators takes many by surprise.

    TESTING: The Monroe School Board considers ending all local end-of-course exams, the Keynoter reports....

  2. Florida education news: Illegal adjournment, reading lessons, school nurses and more


    UNCONSTITUTIONAL: The Florida Supreme Court finds the state House violated the Constitution in adjourning early, but also that it was too late to force them back.

    TESTING: The Brevard school district reduces its local end-of-course exams, Florida Today reports. • Santa Rosa and Escambia schools also cut their local testing, the Pensacola News Journal reports. • Opt-Out Orlando urges parents to have their children not take Orange County's K-2 tests, the Orlando Sentinel reports....

  3. Florida education department clarifies rules on student retention, teacher evaluations


    The passage of HB 7069 into law changed the rules for evaluating Florida students and teachers. Exactly how has been the subject of much debate.

    There's been a healthy back and forth, for instance, over whether the Legislature's action gave school districts more flexibility on retaining third graders who score at the lowest levels of the state reading test.

    Here's what we recently wrote, suggesting that schools hold the final decision. The Florida Stop Common Core Coalition, for one, took issue, saying we got it wrong....

  4. Pasco teacher subject of testing opt-out investigation


    The Pasco school district has launched an investigation into a Mitchell High School math teacher who reportedly encouraged students to opt out of their Algebra II end-of-course exam.

    The state-mandated exam counts as 30 percent of a student's course grade....

  5. Florida education news: Legislative stalemate, testing, condoms and more


    WHAT'S NEXT? Florida lawmakers and the governor can't agree how to proceed in the Legislature's stalemate.

    TESTING: The Pasco school district drops all its local end-of-course exams. • Polk schools will keep most of their tests in place, the Ledger reports....

  6. Add Highlands County to the school districts cutting their local tests


    For those of you keeping track, the Highlands County school district suspended its local end-of-course exams on Thursday along with Pasco County. They joined a growing list that includes Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Leon, Broward, Charlotte, Manatee, Lee and Walton counties....

  7. Pasco schools cut more exams, following a growing movement to reduce testing


    LAND O'LAKES — Less than a month after eliminating a handful of local end-of-course tests, Pasco County school superintendent Kurt Browning has gotten rid of the rest of them.

    Browning announced Thursday that all district-level tests in every course will be available for teachers to use, but they will be optional. He made the decision days before students were to begin taking the exams for the first time. ...

  8. Lee schools won't count state EOC results in student grades: Can they do that?


    While many Florida school districts cancel their local end-of-course exams, courtesy of changed state law, the Lee County School Board has decided to take on state EOC tests, too.

    The Lee board voted unanimously Tuesday to cut the connection between the state tests and student grades. Parents received word from the district late Wednesday....

  9. Pasco schools join districts across Florida in canceling all local end-of-course exams


    After days of discussion, the Pasco school district has decided to end all local end-of-course exams at all grade levels. It follows the steps of Pinellas, Miami-Dade and other districts....

  10. Which state tests carry the highest stakes? Florida's at the top of the list


    Hearing complaints that state tests carry too many consequences, the Hechinger Report reviewed the stakes attached to Common Core-associated exams in 44 states and the District of Columbia. Its question was, essentially, how will each state use its test scores?

    "We found that very few states will be using this spring’s scores for any student-related decisions. And the stakes for teachers are only slightly higher," the authors concluded....

  11. Florida education news: Legislative limbo, bullying, teacher tenure and more


    STILL IN SESSION: The Florida Senate continues its work and tries to get the House to come back, as bills fall like flies.

    BULLYING: Children at Pasco Calusa Elementary fight bullying in their school....

  12. District decides not to move first day of school; first semester will end after winter break


    Pasco County students will head back to school after summer break on Aug. 24, as originally approved.

    "It's too late in the year to change it," superintendent Kurt Browning said after a brief discussion with School Board members last week.

    Browning had pushed lawmakers to change the state law governing when districts can begin the school year. The law had barred districts from starting earlier than two weeks before Labor Day, which caused potential problems with a very late holiday this year — Sept. 7....

  13. How will Florida elementary schools deal with third grade retention decisions?


    Never mind the validity reviews and cut scores. Florida elementary schools will know which third graders are at risk of retention, based on their state language arts test performance, by early June, education commissioner Pam Stewart told superintendents on Wednesday.

    School leaders had expressed concern after Stewart announced two weeks ago that results would not be available until winter....

  14. Florida voucher program gets big boost from Miami firm


    Florida's tax credit scholarship program, which provides private school vouchers to low-income students, received a major infusion Wednesday, as a Miami-based wine and spirits distributor made the largest single contribution to the program ever.

    Southern Wine & Spirits of America announced it would put $100 million into the scholarships, adding to the $90 million it had donated since 2010. Florida corporations can redirect their corporate income tax, insurance premium tax, alcohol beverage excise tax, direct pay sales and use tax, and oil and gas severance tax liabilities to a state approved scholarship funding organization and get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit from the state....

  15. Final tally: One education bill passes Florida Legislature


    Going into the 2015 Florida legislative session, Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg said only one school-related bill mattered: Changes to the state's testing system.

    In the end, that's all lawmakers could manage to accomplish before the House abruptly ended session three days early over budget disagreements.

    HB 7069 is one of just nine bills that made it through both chambers and was signed by Gov. Rick Scott into law. School districts across the state are now taking advantage of the measure, cutting local tests and changing their first day of classes even before the Department of Education can deliver its official technical guidance....