Make us your home page

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 Sept. 14, 2016


    Yet another busy week in the world of Florida education. The State Board of Education called for the end of a controversial teacher bonus, while the state's teacher shortage continued in several school districts. A Miami-Dade school decided to do away with homework, while Pinellas County schools explored ways to eliminate out-of-school suspensions. Follow these and other stories daily on the Gradebook. Send your thoughts and ideas to

  2. Florida Board of Education proposes ending 'Best and Brightest' teacher bonuses


    TAMPA — The Florida Board of Education, made up entirely of Gov. Rick Scott appointees, on Friday proposed ending a controversial bonus for teachers based partly on college entrance exam scores.

    As part of their annual legislative budget request, board members recommended against renewing $49 million for the Best and Brightest program, which paid about $8,500 each to 5,200 teachers in its first year. Instead, they called for using $43 million for different teacher recruitment and retention initiatives. ...

    Florida's State Board of Education has proposed cutting the controversial "Best and Brightest" teacher bonus program and replacing it with other initiatives to reward good teachers. But it remains to be seen whether the Legislature and governor agree.
  3. Florida Board of Education seeks to end controversial teacher bonuses


    From Gradebook:

    The Florida Board of Education on Friday backed a budget plan that would eliminate funding for the state's controversial two-year-old Best and Brightest bonus, which rewards teachers based on their job evaluations and their SAT or ACT scores....

  4. Florida Board of Education seeks to end Best and Brightest teacher bonus


    The Florida Board of Education on Friday backed a budget plan that would eliminate funding for the state's controversial two-year-old Best and Brightest bonus, which rewards teachers based on their job evaluations and their SAT or ACT scores....

  5. Florida Board of Education backs 'ambitious' academic goals in strategic plan update


    During a nearly two-hour-long discussion Friday, Florida Board of Education members voiced strong support for what they called "ambitious" academic goals for the state's schools.

    They generally applauded the proposed strategic plan updates, which call for six to seven percentage point increases in student performance on state tests....

  6. Florida education news: Campus safety, teacher shortage, student funding and more


    CAMPUS SAFETY: Florida's university leaders make funding for mental health counseling and campus security their top legislative priority for the coming year.

    TEACHER SHORTAGE: Central Florida school districts still need to hire 100 teachers more than a month into the new school year, the Orlando Sentinel reports....

  7. Florida's academic goals need dose of reality, learning disabilities rights activist says


    The Florida Board of Education should think hard before eliminating its academic goals that differ among demographic groups, a leading activist for learning-disabled student rights says.

    "We need specific goals by group, because each group has unique needs," Learning Disabilities Association of Florida co-president Mark Halpert told the Gradebook via email. "Time to focus on what our kids needs us to do so they become successful, and be politically correct only to the extent it helps our kids succeed."...

  8. Florida Department of Education rules on school grade appeals


    A couple of Tampa Bay area schools have benefited from their school grade appeals to the state after the initial grades were released, according to notifications sent to districts this week.

    Bloomingdale High School in Valrico had its mark boosted from C to B, after the Florida Department of Education agreed that two students had been included in the wrong testing categories. Marchman Technical College had its F grade removed, and was given no grade, after department officials found that the students at the school were in specialty programs that no longer are there....

  9. Florida education news: Longer school day, bus drivers, homecoming and more


    EXTRA HOUR: Tampa area elementary schools on Florida's Lowest 300 list for reading use their added daily hour differently, but agree that it helps.

    BUS DRIVERS: Hernando school district officials review their policies on bus driver safety after one driver racks up several accidents and violations yet keeps her job....

  10. Parents ask district to weed out kids attending incorrect schools, prior to rezoning


    Hoping to prevent being drawn out of the attendance zones for Mitchell High and Seven Springs Middle schools, several Trinity-area parents have urged the Pasco School Board to first root out children attending the schools using false addresses.

    School district officials are listening, said board attorney Dennis Alfonso. They just haven't decided exactly how to proceed.

    A key concern from the district's perspective, Alfonso said, is making sure that any action doesn't look punitive against a select group of children. He is advocating a districtwide process that requires all students to provide proof of residency, or some other documentation showing they are in a school through approved methods....

  11. Florida education department aims to drop race-based academic targets


    Four years ago, the Florida Board of Education received blistering criticism for adopting academic targets that differed by racial groups. Board members didn't like the concept at first, saying all children should be judged by the same goals, but they were convinced by staff that the approach might help to reduce the achievement gap among the races....

  12. An extra hour a day goes a long way for Florida's 'Lowest 300' schools


    TAMPA — One hour.

    For 311 Florida elementary schools, that's the length of time they've been told to extend their day this year, just to focus on reading. It could be the fix that lifts them off the list of lowest performing schools on the state's language arts test.

    Or not.

    As the "Lowest 300" program enters its fifth year — with a growing number of Tampa Bay area schools on the list — educators insist it's not just the time that matters, but also how they spend it....

    Second-grade teacher Michelle Zayas talks about the difference between key facts and interesting details with some of the top readers in her all-girls class on Sept. 13, 2016 at Robles Elementary in Tampa. Clockwise starting to Zayas' right, the students are Zaniyah Price, Autumn Bruno, Rebecca Romelus, Tatiyana Britt and Leilani Horry. Other girls in the class worked on computers as Robles tries to make the most of an extra hour of reading mandated by the state's "Lowest 300" program. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
  13. Florida Board of Education to take up charter school capital outlay funding rules


    Three months after the original plan, the Florida Board of Education is scheduled to consider new rules for charter school capital funding when it meets Friday in Tampa....

  14. Florida education news: Dropoff lines, student suspensions, school zones and more


    SAFETY FIRST: Rather than comply with drop-off line rules, a Pasco dad hits a 79-year-old school volunteer with his car.

    STUDENT DISCIPLINE: Pinellas district leaders seek new disciplinary strategies to reduce out-of-school suspensions for elementary students....

  15. Pasco County schools rezoning: An opposing parent view


    Many Pasco County parents have voiced their extreme displeasure with the idea of rebalancing enrollment at several west county middle and high schools to ease crowding at some, fill vacant seats at others. They particularly protest removing their children from Seven Springs Middle and Mitchell High.

    Not everyone is so disposed, though.

    One parent, Traelee Works, emailed the district planning department, superintendent and School Board members to let them know she and others support the rezoning. Many have been "bullied into silence," she wrote, or found their words falling on deaf ears. But no longer....