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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

Email: jsolochek@tampabay.com

Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

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  1. Florida Legislature moves to change school start date rules

    Blog

    Since 2007, Florida school districts have not been able to start classes earlier than two weeks before Labor Day.

    With Labor Day falling later than usual this year, in the second week of September, school districts have asked for the law to change. Lawmakers appear ready to oblige....

  2. Florida education news: Testing, teachers, vouchers and more

    Blog

    TESTING: The Florida Senate moves forward with legislation to cut back on testing and its uses. • South Florida school districts prepare to resume computerized testing after days of problems, the Miami Herald reports. • Bigger fixes and a suspension of penalties are needed, the Sun-Sentinel editorializes. • More from the Palm Beach Post, Orlando Sentinel....

  3. Pasco schools continue to feel testing pain

    Blog

    Addressing senators Wednesday morning, Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart pledged that the state's computerized testing troubles were over.

    "With 100 percent certainty we can move forward. Everything we are seeing is it is working as it should," Stewart told the Education Appropriations subcommittee.

    Later in the day, committee member Sen. Bill Montford pointedly disagreed. The problems still exist, the Tallahassee Democrat said, even in Pasco County. He named the county to drive home the point for Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg, sponsor of testing reform legislation who lives in Pasco....

  4. School spending plan makes it clear: No more classes at Moore-Mickens

    K12

    Dade City residents' complaints about moving classes away from Pasco County's Moore-Mickens Education Center have not changed the school district's decision.

    This week, the School Board put an exclamation point on superintendent Kurt Browning's proposal with its 2015-16 allocation formula. In it, the district establishes how many of each type of employee will be required for schools and departments....

  5. Florida House releases draft of its testing bill

    Blog

    The Florida House has been fairly tight lipped about testing while the Senate tackles the topic.

    In advance of the House Education Committee's meeting Thursday, the panel has revealed its draft legislation on the subject, which has captured attention as districts have struggled with testing implementation.

    The draft would reduce the amount testing counts toward teacher evaluations to one-third, similar to a committee substitute in the Senate. It also would eliminate the requirement of end-of-course exams for every course, similar to the Senate, and have the education commissioner set a uniform testing schedule for all districts....

  6. Like school uniforms? A bill encouraging them moves in Florida House

    Blog

    A bill that "encourages" Florida public school districts to adopt student uniforms won enthusiastic, bipartisan support in the Florida House K-12 Committee on Wednesday....

  7. Florida testing issues settle as debate moves to the Legislature

    Blog

    Reports of problems with Florida's computerized writing test dwindled off Wednesday morning, with most area schools having fewer of the login troubles that scuttled the past two days.

    "Schools across the district did experience slow loading this morning," Pasco County district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said. But "so far, no school has suspended testing."

    Pasco and Hillsborough schools resumed testing after taking a day off to let the state resolve its technology problems, which appeared to stem from servers and software. "We're not having any issues. the last two days we had problems before 9:15. Today we have not had any calls," Hillsborough spokesman Steve Hegarty said....

    Land O Lakes High School students prepare to take the Florida Standards Assessment writing test
  8. Florida education news: Testing, technology, Taliban and more

    Blog

    TESTING: Florida's computerized testing endures another day of problems, prompting some districts to postpone for another day. The issue heads to Tallahassee today. • An Orange County parent complains of difficulties as she tries to take her child home after opting out, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Okaloosa students say the new tests are fine, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. • More from the Bradenton Herald, Miami Herald, Sun-Sentinel. ...

  9. Florida computerized testing better, but not perfect, commissioner says

    Blog

    Toward the end of another problem-filled testing day, Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart on Tuesday advised superintendents that her department had continued to work the kinks out of the system.

    Vendor AIR took "full responsibility," Stewart said, and progress was being made. But she made no promises for Wednesday.

    "While we cannot guarantee that some users will not encounter similar issues tomorrow, I also do not want to prevent any districts who have had success from continuing their testing tomorrow," Stewart wrote....

  10. Two Democratic senators urge Gov. Rick Scott to suspend Florida testing

    Blog

    With Florida's new computerized testing system still struggling to perform, two state senators sent Gov. Rick Scott a letter urging him to call the whole thing off.

    "It was not as if this impending catastrophe came without warning," Democrats Jeff Clemens of Lake Worth and Dwight Bullard wrote. "Superintendents, administrators and teachers, as well as legislators, from across the state have continued to steadfastly declare that we, as a state, were not ready to handle this testing system. Their please were ignored by the Department of Education, which now claims that only a few thousand students were unable to test on March 2. This is such a terrible twisting of the truth as to be almost unbelievable."...

  11. Florida House committee to consider paying districts to implement student uniforms

    Blog

    As anticipated, the Florida House K-12 subcommittee has put forth a bill to address the clothes kids wear to school.

    Cloaking the issue as one of student safety, the Students Attired for Safe Education bill aims to limit students' wardrobe choices to, essentially, solid colored pants or skirts, and collared shirts. Students would be encouraged to "express their individuality through personality and academic achievements, rather than outward appearance."...

  12. Some districts halt school testing for a third day, citing little confidence in state fixes

    Testing

    TAMPA — Some schools continued to report problems with computerized state tests on Tuesday, prompting at least three superintendents to shut down testing for a third consecutive day.

    State education officials had tried to assure districts early Tuesday that Monday's software problems had been fixed. But superintendents from Miami-Dade, Broward and Leon counties said they were not comforted....

  13. Florida education commissioner gives okay to return to testing

    Blog

    Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart told school district superintendents shortly after 7 a.m. that her department and testing vendor AIR had located and fixed the cause of Monday's computerized testing problems.

    She advised that schools can begin testing again as soon as they wish, and that the online effort should be vastly improved. Several districts already have canceled testing for today. UPDATE: Shortly after the memo came out, Hillsborough schools experienced similar problems as occurred Monday and told schools they could discontinue testing. See the breaking story here....

  14. Florida testing vendor AIR takes responsibility for Monday problems

    Blog

    Some Florida superintendents already have called off computerized testing for Tuesday. The Department of Education has pledged to find and fix the problems that plagued Monday's administration....

  15. Florida education news: Testing, student clubs, school closures and more

    Blog

    TESTING: More than half of Florida's school districts suspend state computerized testing as the state's systems can't handle the load. • Some students taking the paper version of the test opt out, ABC Action News reports. • The state gets an F in readiness, the Miami Herald editorializes. • Testing vendor AIR accepts blame for the problems, Education Week reports....