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. Low-performing Pasco schools aim to add hour of reading in same class time


    LACOOCHEE — Even before the directive arrived, principal Latoya Jordan intended to add more reading to her students' day at Lacoochee Elementary.

    Her plan called for stragglers to get a half-hour of daily remediation while high achievers receive enrichment.

    Then she learned that Lacoochee, which improved its state grade from D to one point shy of B, had landed on the state's list of 300 lowest-performing schools in reading. That triggered a state mandate to provide 60 minutes of daily reading instruction on top of what students already got....

    Lacoochee Elementary principal Latoya Jordan, left, works with Larry Simmons, 8, earlier this month. The school is one of three in Pasco that need to add an hour of reading each day.
  2. Pasco School Board prepares for budget adoption


    Pasco County School Board members had few questions or concerns this week as they made final preparations for their July 29 public hearing on the 2014-15 budget.

    The $1.2 billion spending plan calls for a small tax rate decrease, to 7.149 mills, and projects to be balanced without eliminating jobs or cutting programs.

    "It is so nice at this point in the year to say we have a balanced budget," board member Joanne Hurley said....

  3. Pasco raises count on end to early retirement plan


    Proposed raises for Pasco County school employees, currently projected at 1 percent, depend upon a controversial cut that the United School Employees of Pasco rejected as recently as a year ago.

    A budget presentation to the School Board on Tuesday showed that just under half of the $3.4 million the administration has tagged as available for salary increases would come from ending the district's early retirement program. That program, in place since 1997, has been used to supplement the retirement pay of certain workers who left the district shy of full vesting in the state pension system....

  4. Florida education news: Magnet schools, crossing guards, report cards and more


    NEW DIRECTION: The Pinellas School Board decides to add more magnet schools and stop the fundamental schools movement.

    CAREER CAMP: Pasco-Hernando State College teaches seventh- through ninth-graders about future job possibilities....

  5. Still no word on Florida's NCLB waiver extension request


    When Florida first received its waiver from federal No Child Left Behind rules, it agreed to include the test scores of students still learning English when rating school performance.

    Activists fought back, saying that inclusion of results from students who clearly still struggled with the language. In the past, those children's outcomes were not used in accountability measures until after they had at least two years' worth of learning in English....

  6. Florida education news: Charter schools, education funding, extended days and more


    CHARTER SCHOOLS: Hillsborough district officials project a 15 percent increase in charter school enrollment, which could millions in funding away from traditional schools.

    FINANCIAL WOES: The Walton school district continues to face added public pressure on its budget after past problems became known, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports. ...

  7. Florida DOE officially launches its test item bank


    The time has come for Florida teacher evaluations to include student testing data in the equation.

    To this point, though, the state has not provided course assessments for many of the subjects that teachers instruct. Most school districts do not have their own tests, either.

    To help ease the transition, the Florida Department of Education has launched a test item bank for districts preparing those additional end-of-course exams. It's more than a year later than originally projected, but department officials have repeatedly suggested that the state's time frame for moving into new testing was adequate....

  8. Pasco schools will not change start times


    School buses will roll at their usual times when classes resume in Pasco County on Aug. 18. None of the district's bell times will be changing, not even the three that the state is requiring add an hour of daily reading instruction.

    "Everything is exactly the same," assistant superintendent Ray Gadd said.

    Last year, the district switched the starting times for several schools, with the goal of maximizing the bus route efficiency. Parents at Deer Park Elementary fought the plan to move their children's bell time back an hour, and the administration backed off....

  9. Florida education news: Funding, standards, smoking and more


    STUDENT FUNDING: Charlie Crist claims that per-student funding in Florida was higher during his term than under Rick Scott. Politifact Florida rates the statement Mostly True.

    STANDARDS: State Impact Florida and Hechinger Report look back on a year of lessons learned while teachers prepare for the transition to Florida Standards....

  10. Florida education news: School Board races, Florida Standards, accountability and more


    IN THE HUNT: Linda Lerner, the longest-serving Pinellas School Board member ever, faces her toughest opponent in Maureen Ahern, the wife of a state lawmaker.

    STANDARDS: Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia tackles parent concerns during one of her public presentations on the new Florida Standards....

  11. Florida education news: Special education, pizza delivery, mentoring and more


    SPECIAL EDUCATION: The Pinellas school district's special education reorganization goes awry.

    DOMINO'S DELIVERS: The Manatee School Board prepares to expand a contract for pizza delivery to schools for celebrations, the Bradenton Herald reports....

  12. Weird Al's 'Word Crimes' takes up where Schoolhouse Rock left off


    Leave it to Weird Al Yankovic to turn last year's summer blockbuster into a catchy lesson on grammar.

    'Word Crimes,' a parody on Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines,' easily could become an English teacher's introductory video to engage (yes, there's the buzz word) students in the often mundane world of spelling, punctuation and usage. Yes, they're still required.

    It's the modern-day version of the Schoolhouse Rock videos so many of us learned from as kids. (Who will ever forget that adverbs end with -ly after watching Lolly get his adverbs?)...

  13. Florida education news: AP tests, teacher attrition, substitute teachers and more


    LIFE LESSON: Pinellas superintendent Mike Grego must learn to contain his temper and improve his communication skills, the Times editorializes.

    TESTING: Hernando students show slight improvements in their Advanced Placement exam results. Hernando Eastside Elementary shows dramatic gains in improving from F to C....

  14. Florida lawmakers quietly change third-grade retention law


    As the Florida Education Association noted in its latest lawsuit, SB 850 did more than expand the state's school voucher system.

    It also changed the rules for Florida's controversial and oft-copied third-grade retention rules, first promulgated by Jeb Bush. The rule, which as Politico noted is losing steam in other states, requires third graders to pass the state reading exam or repeat the grade until they can demonstrate the ability to move ahead....

  15. Requests to leave Pasco schools outstrip applications to transfer in


    Requests to transfer schools across county lines continue to stream into Pasco County as the first day of classes nears.

    Pasco remains a net exporter of students, records indicate, with 1,524 children looking to leave -- mostly to Hillsborough and Pinellas counties -- and 327 students asking to enter. The latest round of requests shows that the majority of transfers into Pasco are to charter schools, particularly Countryside Montessori in Land O'Lakes and the new Pepin Academies in New Port Richey. (See details here.)...