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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. No drama in Pasco School Board chairman choice


    Pasco County School Board members shook their heads Tuesday evening as they followed online feeds detailing the Hillsborough County School Board's politically charged leadership selection.

    "Nothing like that will happen here," said Joanne Hurley, the vice chair who was in line to lead the Pasco board....

  2. Stagnant reading performance by Florida students prompts talk of new approaches


    For nearly two decades, Florida's public education system has heavily emphasized the role of reading — especially students' need to read for comprehension by the end of third grade.

    Now, state leaders are conceding that the intense focus has not yielded the results they wanted. Third-graders' gains have stagnated in recent years, with more than 40 percent consistently below grade-level achievement....

    Bilingual assistant Kenia Rios helps third-grader Elizabeth Kirchner with a reading lesson in July at Blanton Elementary School in St. Petersburg. At far left is Javien Holmes in the rocking chair, and studying on the ground is Thomas Hines.  For years, third-grade reading ability has been a pivotal indicator in Florida’s education system. But stagnant reading scores in recent years are prompting legislators to craft new approaches. [LARA CERRI | Times] 
  3. Pasco district officials remain committed to quarterly tests


    Pasco County school district leaders have no plans to end the quarterly testing system they launched this fall, despite vocal complaints from some teachers and parents about the tests' quality.

    Superintendent Kurt Browning and his staff defended the "checks" during a 90-minute School Board workshop Tuesday. They argued the assessments help teachers understand what their students know as related to state standards, and that all schools are held to the same expectations. They do not carry high stakes, the administrators added....

  4. Florida education news: Leadership, charter schools, desegregation and more


    LEADERSHIP: Divides on the Hillsborough School Board resurface in the selection of a new chairwoman. * No drama in the appointment of a Pinellas board chairwoman. * Collier board members aim to resolve hostility on the dais, the Naples Daily News reports. * Brevard School Board members disagree over their salary, Florida Today reports....

  5. Parents, students state preferences for choice options in survey


    If superintendent Kurt Browning wanted clear direction for the Pasco County School District's next round of choice options, he got it from parents and students responding to a recent survey.

    STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and performing arts themes emerged as top areas of interest for elementary, middle and high schools.

    According to the district's survey results, 22.4 percent of elementary parents and students supported added STEM magnets in the coming years, more than any other subject. The district recently opened a STEAM magnet (that's STEM plus arts) with a lengthy waiting list....

  6. Survey shows Pasco teachers critical of quarterly tests


    The United School Employees of Pasco has provided the Pasco School Board with some compelling information as the board approaches its Tuesday afternoon workshop on assessment.

    The union's survey of about 1,850 members showed that 79 percent found the district-written quarterly "checks" were not based entirely on material presented before students took them. Eighty-six percent said the questions were not well written and easily understood. Seventy-seven percent said not all questions had appropriate and valid answers....

  7. Pasco school district wants to take strong stand on school grading law


    Pasco County school district officials, led by superintendent Kurt Browning, have made clear their stance that Florida should not issue school grades for 2015.

    With just days to go before the school grading rule comment period ends, district leaders are encouraging their colleagues to tell the Department of Education exactly what they think about the proposed plan for those grades, which haven't been halted....

  8. School choice bills continue to flow in Florida Legislature


    Increasing students' school options remains a high priority for several Florida lawmakers, who continue to file bills aiming to accomplish that goal.

    The latest in a string of measures is Rep. Chris Sprowls' revival of his spring effort to codify student transfers across district boundaries. Last time, school district officials picked holes in the proposal, raising concerns about time lines and definitions that House Education chairwoman Marlene O'Toole deemed "adult problems."...

  9. Florida education news: Class size, school pranks, bullying and more


    CLASS SIZE: A rapid rise in Florida schools seeking to avoid class size rules through a legal loophole sparks lawmakers to consider rule changes.

    SCHOOL PRANK? Hillsborough officials investigate why a dead deer was hanging from the flag pole at Brandon High....

  10. Florida's school class size limits reviewed


    A 2013 state law aimed at giving Florida public schools flexibility similar to that of charter schools has fast become a way for districts to avoid the most expensive provisions of the 2002 class-size reduction amendment.

    The rule let campuses deemed "schools of choice" calculate their class size as a school average, rather than as strict classroom counts.

    Since it was passed, 61 percent of the state's 3,041 district-run schools have gained the vaguely defined label....

    Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg contended many schools that received the "schoolf of choice'' designation offered nothing new and weren't truly open to choice. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
  11. Pasco district doesn't find traffic problems for neighbors opposing school rezoning


    In early November, parents from Wesley Chapel's Arbor Woods subdivision complained that a proposal to send their children to a different elementary school would throw them into unacceptable traffic snarls.

    A few days later, Pasco district officials sent a team to see just how bad the problem would be if the families drove west to Denham Oaks Elementary, rather than west to Seven Oaks Elementary where they're currently zoned....

  12. Florida 'schools of choice' numbers soar in a year, prompting call for clearer definitions


    Florida school districts dramatically increased their use of a loophole in the state's class size law last year, according to newly released Department of Education data that's bolstering lawmakers' call for changes to the rule....

  13. Florida education news: Religion, construction, home schooling and more


    RELIGION IN SCHOOLS: Idlewild Baptist Church's participation in Hillsborough public school activities raises questions about its influence and proper role.

    CONSTRUCTION FUNDING: Pinellas district officials consider borrowing money for projects for the first time in a decade....

  14. Paris attacks add edge of reality to security checks at local venues

    Public Safety


    Following Friday's bloody terrorist attacks in Paris, fans at Saturday's Tampa Bay Lightning home game against the Florida Panthers went through more security than usual, the team said.

    The Lightning game was just one of several crowd-drawing events this weekend in the Tampa Bay area. Authorities said they were monitoring events in Paris, but in many cases any changes in security would be transparent or no different....

    The national Anthem during Military Night in honor of Veterans Day before the Tampa Bay Lightning take on the Calgary Flames at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday. [DIRK SHADD | Times ]
  15. ICYMI: Florida education news roundup, week of Nov. 8, 2015


    With the Florida Legislature's redistricting special session ended, state lawmakers began submitting more education bills of note this past week. They're seeking to change the rules on charter schools, choice, student discipline and a host of other hot-button issues. See our Recently Filed section below for a quick rundown of the most notable measures. The statewide debate over testing cut scores continued, while districts dealt with teacher contracts, home school rules, superintendent renewals and student uniforms, among other matters. Visit the Gradebook daily for the latest in Florida education news. And be sure to keep in touch via email, to