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

  1. Florida teachers union president urges Gov. Scott to lead on testing after statewide problems

    Blog

    Computer problems with this week's FCAT administration have prompted Florida Education Association president Andy Ford to call for a new direction on testing from leadership in Tallahassee.

    In a letter to Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz, Ford expressed his "growing alarm ... frustration and despair" over the issues that led more than two dozen districts to suspend testing on Tuesday....

  2. Another day, another FCAT problem for Pasco schools

    Blog

    Pasco County schools were forced to suspend computerized FCAT testing for three hours Thurday, as schools struggled with spotty internet connectivity.

    District officials told principals to delay the testing just after 10 a.m., and even got state permission for students who had seen test content to leave the room without finishing the exam. They alerted schools that the problems had been fixed around 1 p.m., and said students could return to testing if there was enough time....

  3. Pasco schools hit second FCAT snag this week

    Testing

    LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County schools suspended FCAT computerized testing Thursday morning for the second time this week.

    This time, the problem was local.

    "We are experiencing Internet connectivity issues," assessment director Peggy Jones told school leaders in an email just after 10 a.m. "At this time, suspend testing for the remainder of the day."

    District officials had the situation fixed just before 1 p.m. and school were told they could resume testing if time permitted....

  4. Florida education news: Selfies, shuttles, Mountain Dew and more

    Blog

    JUST KEEP WALKING: The University of South Florida warns this year's graduates not to stop for selfies onstage when receiving their diplomas.

    'A LOT SAFER': A new shuttle between Meridian Pointe apartments and Middleton High gives students a sense of security....

  5. Federal court give partial go-ahead to Florida teacher lawsuit over merit pay, evaluations

    Blog

    A federal judge has ruled that parts of a lawsuit challenging Florida's teacher evaluation and pay law (SB 736) may move forward, while dismissing other parts of the challenge to the three-year-old law.

    The lawsuit, filed by teachers in Hernando, Alachua and Escambia counties, questions the constitutionality of evaluating teachers using test results of children they did not instruct.

    In the ruling, Judge Mark E. Walker said the teachers' challenge of the law would be dismissed, but their challenge of the resulting policies could be heard:...

  6. Closing Pasco charter school calls emergency meeting

    Blog

    The board of directors for Florida Autism Center of Excellence-Pasco has called an emergency meeting for Thursday evening.

    The session comes a week after the board voted to shut down the school, which opened in fall 2013, amid concerns over low enrollment and poor finances....

  7. FCAT testing resumes after computer glitches are fixed

    Testing

    Florida schools returned to computerized FCAT testing on Wednesday after receiving word from the state that the systems were again running properly.

    Twenty-six districts reported problems with student access to the online exams on Tuesday, prompting the Florida Department of Education to recommend a delay in testing for affected schools.

    Education commissioner Pam Stewart blamed testing company Pearson for the troubles....

  8. Florida schools given okay to restart FCAT testing

    Blog

    Server problems that hampered Florida's computerized FCAT testing on Tuesday appear to be resolved, as education commissioner Pam Stewart told superintendents early Wednesday they were cleared to resume the exam.

    In a memo sent just after 7 a.m., Stewart announced that overnight fixes had been put in place to avoid another day of slowdowns and delays for students taking their FCAT online. More than two dozen districts had to stop computerized testing on Tuesday because of problems with the servers run by test company Pearson....

  9. Florida education news: Charter schools, vouchers, testing and more

    Blog

    IN THE LEGISLATURE: The Florida House passes a measure that would limit school district control over charter schools. • Senators revive a proposal to expand student vouchers, but stall an effort to give illegal immigrants in-state tuition. More on vouchers from Education Week....

  10. Florida education commissioner blasts Pearson, will seek damages

    Blog

    Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart has fired off an angry letter to Pearson head of state services Walter Sherwood over the company's latest problems administering the FCAT exams.

    Stewart blamed the company for computer troubles that prompted school districts across the state to suspend testing, and criticized the firm for downplaying the situation as "frustrating" on its online status website....

  11. Headhunter firm contacts Pasco superintendent again

    Blog

    For the second time in six months, the Iowa-based search firm Ray and Associates has reached out to Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning, asking him to consider a superintendency elsewhere.

    This time, the group has invited Browning to apply for the top job in the Jefferson County, Colorado, school system, just outside Denver. That district is slightly larger than Pasco, but pays its superintendent about double what Browning earns....

  12. Florida school districts suspend online FCAT after glitches

    K12

    Problems with Florida's annual FCAT test on Tuesday rekindled simmering concerns that the state isn't ready for its next steps toward full computerized testing.

    At least a dozen Florida school districts, including Pasco and Hernando, were forced to suspend online testing Tuesday as students had trouble signing in to take the annual exam. No problems were reported in Hillsborough or Pinellas counties....

  13. Pasco schools suspend FCAT testing amid computer problems

    Blog

    The Pasco County school district has advised its schools to suspend FCAT testing Tuesday morning because of computer issues.

    "Kids are having troubles signing in," district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe explained, saying the issue is affecting fifth grade math, and seventh and ninth grade reading.

    In a memo to principals, accountability and measurement director Peggy Jones said other districts, including Leon, Seminole and Brevard appeared to be having similar difficulties. "We are not certain if this is Pearson-based (or) the Internet provider. We will continue to work on a resolution and will notify you."...

  14. Florida education news: In-state tuition, VAM scores, dog therapy and more

    Blog

    POLITICAL MANEUVERS: State Sen. Jack Latvala offers amendments to four separate bills in an effort to keep alive the idea of in-state tuition for illegal immigrant residents. • A group of students lobbies Senate president Don Gaetz to let the tuition bill be heard, WFSU reports....

  15. Pasco student musician jams district elevator

    Blog

    The Pasco County school district main office has undergone a face lift in recent weeks, receiving new flooring, lighting and a paint job. New student photos also have gone up, including on the lobby elevator doors.

    Mitchell High saxophonist Kyle Schroeder is featured on the door on the left. He found it so cool that he created a little elevator music to celebrate. Check it out below.

    ...