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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. So far, so good as Florida resumes computerized testing


    After a chaotic day of server failures, Florida schools returned to computerized testing Tuesday with no early signs of a repeat.

    "So far, no problems," Hillsborough schools spokesman Steve Hegarty told the Gradebook a half hour after high school students were to begin. "They seem to have worked it out."...

  2. Florida education news: Testing woes, college costs, an absent teacher and more


    TESTING: Florida schools delay and cancel online testing Monday amid a new round of server access problems caused by vendor AIR. More from the Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald, Naples Daily NewsEducation Week * Teacher unions in Florida and elsewhere reassert themselves with strong stances in the national testing debate, the NY Times reports....

  3. Fla's testing flops again, suspended across the state


    Florida's computerized testing system ran into a new round of problems Monday, following a trouble-free week that had officials optimistic the system was on solid footing.

    Districts across the state reported that students were unable to begin taking their Florida Standards Assessments in language arts and math on Monday morning.

    The Florida Department of Education announced shortly before 11 a.m. that the problem had been corrected. But it was too late for some districts — including Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Broward and Leon counties — which already had canceled all testing and would try again Tuesday. Hillsborough and Pasco were among the districts that continued to test Monday....

  4. Florida testing opt-out groups plan to keep heat on school districts


    Florida lawmakers might have adopted new rules for student standardized testing. But parents and activists who advocate opting out while seeking to eliminate the high stakes attached to those tests still have many concerns and questions.

    Many still feel the new law does not go far enough. It limits state and district testing to 5 percent of a student's time in school, for instance, but many school districts already fall well below that level. So does the measure actually provide for more testing?...

  5. Online testing system fails again; angry state official calls glitches 'unacceptable'


    Florida's new computerized tests ran into another round of problems Monday, drawing heightened concerns about their validity and bringing a hail of we-told-you-sos from teachers, parents and school officials.

    A technical blunder prevented students from logging on early in the day to take their Florida Standards Assessments in language arts and math.

    By midmorning, the Florida Department of Education announced the problem had been corrected. But it was too late for many districts — including Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Broward and Leon counties — which already had canceled testing for the day and hoped to try again today. ...

    This was the error message some Tampa Bay area students received when they were about halfway through computerized testing in March.
  6. Florida computerized testing down again


    UPDATE: The Florida Department of Education told school districts they could resume testing at about 10:30 a.m. Victoria Ash, chief of the department assessment bureau, wrote: "As you are all quite aware, this morning, AIR experienced issues with the login server, which prevented Test Administrators from starting sessions and students being unable to sign into tests.  These issues have now been resolved.  Test Administrators may need to clear the cache and restart their browser before accessing the TA Interface to start sessions."...

  7. Florida education news: Breakfast, math, cars and more


    NUTRITION MATTERS: The Manatee school district begins offering free breakfast to all students, the Bradenton Herald reports.

    SPECIAL EDUCATION: Agencies help adult students with special needs find employment in Miami-Dade as they age out of school programs, the Miami Herald reports....

  8. 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....

  9. 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....

  10. 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....

  11. 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....

  12. 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....

  13. 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....

  14. 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....

  15. 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....