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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. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of Jan. 31, 2016


    This week, we got a front row seat as Florida's superintendents sparred with powerful lawmakers over school construction funding. So far, the superintendents look to have the weaker hand. We met a teacher who got so fed up with "education by legislation" that she quit her job. And we braced ourselves for 2015 school grades, just less than year after students took their 2015 state tests. Out in the districts, school boards debated blue jeans, cell phones and recess, among so many other issues. Who says public education is boring? Keep up with it all on the Gradebook. And please keep your tips, questions and comments coming to

  2. Florida Gifted Network worries funding might be threatened


    A proposed new rule aimed at expanding access to gifted education in Florida has gifted advocates worried that funding for the program is in jeopardy.

    Much of the rule, titled Special Instructional Programs for Students who are Gifted, focuses on how to get more children identified and placed into advanced instruction. Within the proposal, though, gifted education is referred to as a "support service" rather than as a "program."...

  3. After a year of hurdles, Florida's 2015 school grades are coming. Will anyone care?


    Florida schools expect to get their 2015 state grades as early as Tuesday, and Sgt. Paul R. Smith Middle School principal JoAnn Johnson has a good feeling.

    Her school, located in Citrus Park, is projected to earn an A after just missing a year earlier.

    "We opened our school (in August) with the theme 'Moving On Up to the A Side,'" Johnson said. "Once we know for sure, we will celebrate."...

    Participants in a three-day Education Accountability Summit in Clearwater in 2013 listed the strengths of Florida's school grading system as the state began its transition to new standards. The grading system -- and the transition -- would later come under attack after problems in 2015 with the new state test, the Florida Standards Assessments. [SCOTT KEELER    |    Times]
  4. Rep. Fresen unconvinced by Florida superintendents on school construction costs


    Florida House Education Appropriations chairman Rep. Erik Fresen on Friday responded with disdain to superintendents' recent criticism of his views on school construction spending....

  5. Florida education bills gain traction


    You've heard about the major education legislation coursing through the Florida Legislature -- expanded school choice, athletic "free agency," teacher bonuses, recess and the like.

    But what about some of the smaller measures? Where are they in the process?

    Here's a brief look at some less publicized education bills making their way through the chambers. You'll note the Senate is moving more slowly than the House. Let us know if we missed any you're interested in....

  6. Florida education news: Research class, property taxes, recess moms and more


    NEW APPROACH: Pasco County sixth graders learn research skills as their district drops a mandatory reading course.

    FUNDING: Hernando School Board members discuss seeking a local property tax increase to support school technology....

  7. Pasco Mitchell High School gets a new principal


    In what has become a general practice, Pasco superintendent Kurt Browning has promoted a school's assistant principal to take the top job after the principal's departure.

    Jessica Schultz, an assistant at Mitchell High since 2006, accepted the post Thursday afternoon. She will replace Jim Michaels, who recently retired.

    Schultz was one of nearly a dozen candidates to run the school in Trinity, coming out ahead of some current and former principals. Unlike the previous administration, Browning has tended to prefer internal applicants to run schools, unless he's cleaning house....

  8. Pasco testing schedule under scrutiny


    A constant complaint during testing in Pasco County schools has been that teachers struggle to maintain their courses because students rotate in and out to take their exams.

    That criticism baffled superintendent Kurt Browning, who couldn't fathom why all students in a class would not be testing at the same time.

    Kids coming and going "certainly is going to be a problem for a teacher," Browning said....

  9. What's in a name? Pasco school district considers options for new elementary school


    When building new schools, the Pasco school district holds off on giving them names until construction nears completion. As a placeholder, it uses letters.

    Now it's preparing to name Elementary W, in Wesley Chapel near John Long Middle School.

    Officials have asked for suggestions, and they've started pouring in. We thought we'd share some of the ones that stood out.

    On the serious side, proposals have included Wendell Krinn Elementary, for the recently deceased longtime principal; Godwin Elementary, after the family of late 19th century postmasters in the area; and Susan Jordan Elementary, after an Indiana principal who died pushing children out of the way of an oncoming bus....

  10. New research course helps Pasco sixth-graders master needed skills


    Sixth-graders in Stephanie Wisnieske's fourth-period class sifted through books on body functions, sorting them by topic and putting them into separate bins.

    The work, though somewhat tedious, held the promise of making it easier for the students to find materials as they study and report about body functions. It marked their third research project this school year, and the pre-teens not only understood the drill, they appreciated it....

    Centennial Middle School teacher Stephanie Wisnieske works with sixth-graders Emily Schreck and Olivia Gillispie, right, on a project about body systems during their research class.
  11. Florida education news: Resignation, block schedules, school nurses and more


    'I AM RESIGNING': A veteran Pasco County teacher says she can no longer take the micromanagement and stress of her classroom job.

    IN THE RACE: Two candidates file for Hernando School Board District 4....

  12. Deadline for open enrollment for 2016-17 is March 1


    Pasco County families seeking to move their children from one district school to another may apply through March 1.

    The school district's open enrollment process offers students a chance to attend schools outside their assigned attendance zone, if their preferred school has seats available. Unlike magnet programs, open enrollment does not come with free bus transportation.

    Students already in a school through open choice do not have to reapply, unless they have changed their home address, live outside Pasco County or are moving from one school level to the next....

  13. Another Florida teacher quits, blaming state mandates — but is that really the problem?


    LAND O'LAKES — After 27 years in the classroom, one moment prompted Tracey Suits to end her teaching career.

    Suits arrived at her Land O'Lakes High School classroom just before 7 a.m. one recent day to find a parent waiting. Why, the parent wanted to know, hadn't Suits responded to an email sent less than 12 hours earlier?

    The English honors teacher, still carrying her bags, had her reasons: She had spent the evening grading papers, writing lesson plans and eating dinner with her family before going to bed....

    Tracey Suits, 54, delivers her public resignation to the Pasco School Board in this image from video posted on YouTube.
  14. Student surveys give insights into Florida's computer testing system


    Florida students return to state testing later this month, with hopes that they don't run into the same problems they faced a year ago.

    State officials say they've worked to improve the computer system that led students, parents and educators to question the credibility of the tests and, more broadly, Florida's accountability model -- even after an independent validity study....

  15. Florida education news: Construction, contracts, charters and more


    CONSTRUCTION COSTS: Florida superintendents blast a state House presentation that accused them of "horrible" stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

    TOP TEACHER: Sarah Dobes, an English teacher at East Lake Middle School, is Pinellas County Teacher of the Year....