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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. Florida education news: Layoffs, vouchers, new math and more


    LAYOFFS: Clay residents and teachers fight the elimination of 80 teaching jobs, the Florida Times-Union reports.

    VOUCHERS: A growing number of Florida private schools rely on public vouchers to make ends meet, the Orlando Sentinel reports....

  2. Florida education news: Superintendents, safety, dual enrollment and more


    SUPERINTENDENTS: Jeff Eakins agrees to terms for a two-year contract as Hillsborough superintendent. * Brevard School Board members say they won't rush their superintendent search process, Florida Today reports. * A Palm Beach School Board member accuses colleagues of "racist thought" during their superintendent selection, the Palm Beach Post reports. The new superintendent announces his 90-day plan, the Sun-Sentinel reports. * Volusia's new superintendent steps into the middle of several heated battles with ease, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports....

  3. Pinellas School Board to consider easing zero tolerance rules


    With the change of one word, the Pinellas School Board could lessen the potential penalty for students who bring weapons to school without any intent to use them.

    A proposed amendment to the district Code of Conduct would no longer require that students be suspended if they have a weapon but don't use or threaten to use them. It reads:

    Any student who brings, possesses or exhibits a dangerous object at school, or to any school function, or on any school-sponsored transportation, without the use or threatened use in an offensive or defensive manner, is guilty of a serious breach of conduct and that student will may be suspended from school for ten (10) days and may be recommended for reassignment or expulsion....

  4. Pasco School Board aims to tackle absenteeism


    Pasco school district leaders identified student absenteeism as a problem four years ago, when seven of 11 elementary feeder patters had more than half their students missing 10 or more days of classes.

    Time passed, but the situation didn't change. In 2012-13, for instance, more than a third of high school students missed 20 or more days. The School Board again called for action in September....

  5. Florida education news: School improvement, community colleges, superintendents and more


    PAYING ATTENTION: Hillsborough's new superintendent plans to improve the education for east Tampa students who have been bused out of their neighborhoods.

    CHARTER SCHOOLS: Plato Academy plans to expand to its seventh site in Pinellas County....

  6. Florida lawmakers push for safer conditions for students who walk to school


    We've been down this path before. 

    Floridians complain about the unsafe conditions that some children must traverse when headed to and from school. They highlight tragic deaths that occurred while a youngster walked along a busy highway without sidewalks.

    Lawmakers talk about the issue. Last year, they almost passed a bill changing the rules for identifying hazardous walking routes and providing added school buses....

  7. What's happening on the Florida education budget front?


    Not much, actually. 

    The Florida House and Senate have different proposals on 2015-16 school spending, each of which differs slightly from what Gov. Rick Scott requested.

    But discussions to reach consensus haven't begun. Ruth Melton from the Florida School Boards Association described it best in her daily update to members:

    Normally, at this point in the legislative session, budget conference committees would be working on resolving differences between the House and Senate budget bills. However, negotiations have been at a stand-still for a few weeks due to a significant disagreement between the House and Senate on funding for the Low Income Pool (LIP), a program that provides funding to hospitals and health providers that provide care for uninsured and low-income Floridians and for an expansion of the Medicaid program. The Senate budget included $2.2 billion for a modified LIP program and set aside another $2.8 billion in federal Medicaid-expansion funding, but the House budget does not include this funding nor does it support the policies related to this funding. The disagreement about these issues has been escalating in recent weeks and today legislative leaders acknowledged they won't be able to wrap up budget negotiations before the scheduled May 1 end of the 2015 session and that an extended session or special session is likely....

  8. Florida education news: Guns, gardens, school start dates and more


    GUNS IN SCHOOL: The Florida Senate Education Committee declines a vote on a bill to let teachers carry on campus, effectively killing the measure.

    HOW'D YOU DO? Florida students and schools won't learn the results of their Florida Standards Assessments for months. * Osceola schools eliminate 35 local end-of-course exams, the Osceola News-Gazette reports. * The University of Florida sponsors a two-week algebra study challenge for Alachua ninth-graders, the Gainesville Sun reports....

  9. School guns bill dies in Florida Senate


    A bill to allow select Florida school teachers to carry concealed guns on campus has died in the Florida Senate. It went down without a final vote.

    Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg, a key Republican critic of the measure, had called a special meeting of his panel this afternoon to consider SB 180. He wanted to have an up-or-down vote, to prevent the language being added to another bill as a floor amendment....

  10. For now, Pasco plans to maintain start of 2015-16 school year on Aug. 24


    After summer break, Pasco County schools are set to resume classes on Aug. 24 — for now.

    A change in state law, headed to Gov. Rick Scott for approval, would let districts begin their academic years as early as Aug. 10.

    That possibility has Pasco officials contemplating their options.

    Although backing up the first day of school to Aug. 10 is not in the mix, the idea of Aug. 17 remains on the table. It's the starting date that the School Board originally preferred, had the law now in effect not forced them to wait until two weeks before Labor Day....

  11. New Florida law will delay school test results for months


    If you thought computerized testing would generate quick results, think again.

    Students taking Florida Standards Assessments exams this week won't get their scores for close to eight months, education commissioner Pam Stewart said Wednesday.

    "I have concerns with us moving forward with data … before it is validated," Stewart told the State Board of Education.

    She referred to a requirement, signed into law Tuesday, that an independent test expert verify the FSA as properly written and administered before the results can be used. That report is due by Sept. 1....

    Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says test scores could be delayed eight months.
  12. Florida not "too scared of change" in education, State Board member says


    Watching other states fight over education standards, and waver over reform efforts, State Board of Education vice chairman John Padget says he's "proud to be a Floridian."

    "Some have gotten too scared of changes, and actually fallen down and dropped standards," said Padget, a Keys investor who once served as Monroe schools superintendent. "Think of where we are in Florida."

    The board, commissioner, governor and lawmakers are aligned in their views of education and accountability, he said. They've held the course on adopting and sticking to high expectations, he continued, without fearing to make adjustments as necessary. He mentioned the latest changes to state testing law as an example....

  13. Don't expect Florida testing results before winter, education commissioner says


    Florida students are taking their state standardized tests now through May. When will they learn how they did?

    Not for a good long while.

    The Florida Department of Education will conduct its regular third-party validation study of the exams. A second independent review also will occur, as required by newly approved law. Those are due by Sept. 1....

  14. Florida education news: Testing law, computer hacking, board politics and more


    TESTING: Gov. Rick Scott signs into law changes to Florida's testing system, auch as a reduction in duplicative exams. Critics, including the Times editorial board, want more....

  15. Pasco teachers, district officials to kick off 2015-16 contract talks


    As anticipated, representatives from the Pasco school district and United School Employees of Pasco will kick off contract talks at the end of April.

    Their goal is to have a settlement before teachers return to work in August, or shortly after. This past year, negotiations began in June and, though some hoped to finish quickly, the sides did not reach an agreement until December. They ratified the deal a month later....