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 Standards bringing changes for students, teachers alike


    During a training session this summer, fifth-grade teacher Tina Colella came to a realization: Her teaching style relied too heavily on lecturing.

    "We used to teach procedure," said Colella, a 12-year Pasco County educator. "It was our thinking. This is what you do first. This is what you do second."

    It left little room for students to figure out things for themselves.

    All that changes this year. Florida's official and complete transition to new academic standards demands it....

    [ CAMERON COTTRILL   |   Times ]
  2. Students push Pasco School Board to end tobacco use on campuses


    Hoping to spur some action, anti-smoking advocates including students this week continued to press the Pasco County School Board to change their rules that allow smoking and tobacco use on half the district's properties.

    Representatives from Students Working Against Tobacco urged the board to negotiate a deal with the United School Employees of Pasco to end the 18-year-old agreement that permits workers to smoke at schools and facilities opened before July 1, 1996. They read letters from classmates who found the practice disgusting and unhealthy, and talked about the need for the district to remove the "poison" from their midst....

  3. Pasco schools look to build on what they have started


    Having made several big changes in his first 18 months as superintendent, Kurt Browning has promised no major districtwide strategy changes this year for Pasco County schools.

    Faculty and staff have their hands full enough already.

    "We're going to continue to improve upon and build upon initiatives we put in place," Browning explained.

    He referred specifically to the expansion of the district's school choice options and the addition of programs designed to assist struggling students. Some of those will begin to blossom during the 2014-15 school year, after preparations during the past several months....

  4. Florida education news: Campaign ads, sales tax, new teachers and more


    POLITICS: A Charlie Crist campaign ad filmed at St. Petersburg High violates school district policies.

    TAXES: The Hernando School Board approves a referendum to extend its sales tax for school capital projects....

  5. Pasco school district works to round out administrative staff


    With the new school year fast approaching, Pasco County district leaders continue to fill the handful of administrative posts that remain vacant.

    Interviews continue Wednesday for a new Bayonet Point Middle School principal, after the unexpected retirement of longtime leader Mike Asbell, whose last day is Thursday. Todd Cluff, executive director of the northwest county learning community, said the candidates seemed strong, although he would not say whom he might recommend....

  6. Three Pasco elementary schools to push back final bell for fourth, fifth grades


    Fourth- and fifth-graders at Pasco County's Cox, Gulfside and Lacoochee elementary schools will be in school 50 minutes later each day starting in the fall, but their younger schoolmates won't.

    Pasco district officials devised the plan to meet a state mandate for extra reading instruction at the 300 elementary schools with the lowest FCAT reading results. They were able to add an hour of reading at the primary level without extending the day, but couldn't make that effort work for the intermediate grades....

  7. Florida education news: Reading, spending, art and more


    READING LESSONS: Three Pasco elementary schools will end their days 50 minutes later to add state-mandated reading instruction for fourth and fifth graders. • Parents at one Duval elementary school oppose the state-mandated hour for their children, the Florida Times-Union reports....

  8. Pasco school board approves longer days for two grades


    LAND O'LAKES — For fourth- and fifth-graders only, three Pasco County elementary schools will extend their class days by 50 minutes this year.

    Cox, Gulfside and Lacoochee elementary schools exceeded minimum instructional hours for children in kindergarten through third grade, officials said, making it unnecessary to add more time for those children.

    "We were already at 964 hours," assistant superintendent Amelia Larson said Tuesday. "We met the requirement."...

  9. Florida Virtual School changes its policy on collaborative projects


    Florida Virtual School long has required its students to participate in collaborative assignments as part of their course requirements. The idea has been that in the business world, people need to have the ability to work with their peers to solve problems and create reports and products.

    In the world of far-flung classmates, who don't always have access to one another or mutually available time to cooperate, the concept doesn't always work. Some school officials pointed this out to FLVS leaders, who have dialed back the mandate....

  10. Florida's back-to-school sales tax holiday runs this weekend


    Time sure does fly. Here it feels like classes just let out, and the back-to-school sales tax holiday is upon us.

    Most Florida schools already have posted their supply lists for the new year, which begins in scant weeks. If you're hoping to save a bit on the purchase, this weekend is the time.

    A long list of supplies (less than $15 per item) and clothing (less than $100) will be tax-free Friday through Sunday. New to this year's list are youth bicycle helmets, child restraint systems and car booster seats....

  11. Florida education news: Extended day, school hours, dress codes and more


    EXTENDED DAY: Pasco district officials must find $1 million in their budget proposal after the Florida Department of Education says their lowest performing elementary schools must add an hour to their instructional day. • Volusia schools prepare for longer days because of the rule, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports....

  12. 'Paper Towns,' once banned at Pasco school, is back on summer reading list


    A Pasco County middle school that quietly removed star novelist John Green's Paper Towns from its eighth-grade summer reading list after a parent's complaint has now just as quietly put the title back on its list.

    Superintendent Kurt Browning faced threats of legal action from anti-censorship groups after he authorized the book's deletion last month over concerns about sexual content and language. ...

  13. State says low-performing elementary schools must add extra hour to school day


    Pasco County School District officials scrambled Monday to find $1 million in their "tight" but balanced budget after learning they must add an hour of daily instruction at three elementary schools.

    They had planned to squeeze the state-mandated extra reading lessons into the standard six-hour day at Cox, Gulfside and Lacoochee elementary schools, which landed on the list of Florida's 300 lowest-performing elementary schools in reading. But the Florida Department of Education issued an interpretation of state law late Friday making clear that the schools' learning days must be longer, not just more efficiently structured....

  14. Pasco school returns John Green novel 'Paper Towns' to summer reading list


    A Pasco County middle school that quietly removed star novelist John Green's 'Paper Towns' from its eighth-grade summer reading list after a parent's complaint has now just as quietly put the title back on its list.

    Superintendent Kurt Browning faced threats of legal action from anti-censorship groups after he authorized the book's deletion over concerns about sexual content and language. He said he wanted to take community standards into consideration, and learned the teacher who selected the book never had read it....

  15. Florida lawmaker wants to require student viewing of conservative, patriotic movie


    During the 2014 legislative session, Florida Sen. Alan Hays looked to remove the state from the process of reviewing and selecting textbooks. The decisions, he argued, should be left to local school districts.

    He appears to have different ideas when it comes to Dinesh D'Souza's conservative-leaning movie on the United States' history, America: Imagine the World Without Her....

    This is a scene from America, Imagine the World Without Her.