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

Email: jsolochek@tampabay.com

Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

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

    K12

    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. ...

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

    K12

    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....

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

    Blog

    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....

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

    Blog

    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.
  5. Florida education news: University debut, campus sinkhole, free internet and more

    Blog

    GETTING STARTED: Florida Polytechnic University still faces hurdles as it readies itself for opening day, the AP reports.

    FIXING A HOLE: A small sinkhole opens on the campus of Volusia's Deltona High School, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports....

  6. Florida education news: Law school, lacrosse, paychecks and more

    Blog

    TOO MANY LAWYERS: Florida sees its number of law schools rise while job availability declines.

    AIMING HIGHER: Florida Southwestern College explores opportunities for student and faculty research, the Fort Myers News-Press reports....

  7. Florida education news: Budgets, magnets, migrants and more

    Blog

    BUDGETING: Hernando's financial picture brightens as its year-end account balances improve.

    GOOD START: A plan to add more magnet schools in Pinellas County offers promise of improving the district's lowest performing schools, the Times editorializes....

  8. Florida Department of Education clarifies extended day rule for lowest 300

    Blog

    The Florida Department of Education on Friday issued a memo to school districts advising that the term "beyond the normal school day" means just that when it comes to how the state's 300 lowest-performing elementary schools expand their reading instruction. Commissioner Pam Stewart wrote:

    "For purposes of compliance with this requirement, a school year is understood to be comprised of 180 instructional days, section 1011.61(1)(c)2., Florida Statutes, and the additional instructional time requirement is understood to be additive relative to the current minimums of 720 hours per year for students in grades K-3 and 900 hours per year for students in grades 4 and higher, section 1011.61(1)(a)1., Florida Statutes....

  9. Pasco district offers choices to students at persistently struggling schools

    Blog

    Children assigned to seven Pasco County public schools can choose to attend other schools in the district through Florida's Opportunity Scholarship Program.

    The program allows students attending schools that have received an F in state grading, or three consecutive D's, to transfer to other campuses with transportation provided. This year, Pasco had five schools rated F, and two with three straight D marks. Letters began going to parents this week....

  10. Florida education news: Arts, standards, school improvement and more

    Blog

    ARTS EDUCATION: Hernando high school students win permission to transfer schools based on the availability of music programs.

    COMMON CORE: New state academic standards divide candidates for Sarasota School Board, the Herald-Tribune reports....

  11. Florida's newest vouchers prove popular

    Blog

    They may be controversial. But Florida's new personal learning scholarship accounts -- the state's latest vouchers for students with profound disabilities -- are also popular among the families that can use them.

    Step Up For Students, the organization that administers the PLSA's along with corporate tax-credit scholarships, sent out a release Thursday to note that about 1,100 families had applied for the new account in the first week of availability. Lawmakers set aside about $18 million for the program, enough to cover close to 1,800 children....

  12. Are longer days best for low-performing schools?

    Blog

    In trying to infuse an added hour of reading into the day for its lowest-performing schools, the Pasco County school district might be running afoul of state law. That law makes clear that the schools must add the hour "beyond the normal school day," not within it....

  13. Florida education news: FCAT cheating, teacher credentials, extended school day and more

    Blog

    TESTING: Bay Point Elementary in Pinellas faces a state investigation into suspected FCAT cheating on the fourth grade math test.

    CREDENTIALS: Five additional Hillsborough teachers face dismissal for failure to earn needed certification for the teaching of English language learners....

  14. Low-performing Pasco schools aim to add hour of reading in same class time

    K12

    LACOOCHEE — Even before the directive arrived, principal Latoya Jordan intended to add more reading to her students' day at Lacoochee Elementary.

    Her plan called for stragglers to get a half-hour of daily remediation while high achievers receive enrichment.

    Then she learned that Lacoochee, which improved its state grade from D to one point shy of B, had landed on the state's list of 300 lowest-performing schools in reading. That triggered a state mandate to provide 60 minutes of daily reading instruction on top of what students already got....

    John Legg
  15. Pasco School Board prepares for budget adoption

    Blog

    Pasco County School Board members had few questions or concerns this week as they made final preparations for their July 29 public hearing on the 2014-15 budget.

    The $1.2 billion spending plan calls for a small tax rate decrease, to 7.149 mills, and projects to be balanced without eliminating jobs or cutting programs.

    "It is so nice at this point in the year to say we have a balanced budget," board member Joanne Hurley said....