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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

Email: jsolochek@tampabay.com

Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

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  1. Two Democratic senators urge Gov. Rick Scott to suspend Florida testing

    Blog

    With Florida's new computerized testing system still struggling to perform, two state senators sent Gov. Rick Scott a letter urging him to call the whole thing off.

    "It was not as if this impending catastrophe came without warning," Democrats Jeff Clemens of Orlando and Dwight Bullard wrote. "Superintendents, administrators and teachers, as well as legislators, from across the state have continued to steadfastly declare that we, as a state, were not ready to handle this testing system. Their please were ignored by the Department of Education, which now claims that only a few thousand students were unable to test on March 2. This is such a terrible twisting of the truth as to be almost unbelievable."...

  2. Florida House committee to consider paying districts to implement student uniforms

    Blog

    As anticipated, the Florida House K-12 subcommittee has put forth a bill to address the clothes kids wear to school.

    Cloaking the issue as one of student safety, the Students Attired for Safe Education bill aims to limit students' wardrobe choices to, essentially, solid colored pants or skirts, and collared shirts. Students would be encouraged to "express their individuality through personality and academic achievements, rather than outward appearance."...

  3. School testing falters for a second day in Hillsborough, despite state fixes

    Testing

    TAMPA — "It's Groundhog Day."

    That was Hillsborough County school spokesman Stephen Hegarty's assessment of his district's Tuesday morning attempt to run computerized state testing.

    "Several (schools) are having no problems," Hegarty said. "Others are calling in saying they have problems." He said the district is advising the schools with problems to discontinue for the day.

    The Hillsborough district was among the few that had not suspended testing after experiencing problems during Monday's round of Florida Standards Assessments....

  4. Florida education commissioner gives okay to return to testing

    Blog

    Florida education commissioner Pam Stewart told school district superintendents shortly after 7 a.m. that her department and testing vendor AIR had located and fixed the cause of Monday's computerized testing problems.

    She advised that schools can begin testing again as soon as they wish, and that the online effort should be vastly improved. Several districts already have canceled testing for today. UPDATE: Shortly after the memo came out, Hillsborough schools experienced similar problems as occurred Monday and told schools they could discontinue testing. See the breaking story here....

  5. Florida testing vendor AIR takes responsibility for Monday problems

    Blog

    Some Florida superintendents already have called off computerized testing for Tuesday. The Department of Education has pledged to find and fix the problems that plagued Monday's administration....

  6. Florida education news: Testing, student clubs, school closures and more

    Blog

    TESTING: More than half of Florida's school districts suspend state computerized testing as the state's systems can't handle the load. • Some students taking the paper version of the test opt out, ABC Action News reports. • The state gets an F in readiness, the Miami Herald editorializes. • Testing vendor AIR accepts blame for the problems, Education Week reports....

  7. Florida school districts suspend computerized testing for Tuesday

    Blog

    After facing problems with online testing Monday, a growing number of Florida superintendents are suspending the Florida Standards Assessment computerized writing test for Tuesday.

    State officials have told districts they will work to resolve the problems through the night. But that did not assuage these district leaders....

  8. Plans to end classes at Pasco's Moore-Mickens center continue uninterrupted

    Blog

    Dade City residents' complaints about moving classes away from Pasco County's Moore-Mickens Education Center have not impacted the school district's decision.

    This week, the School Board plans to put an exclamation point on superintendent Kurt Browning's proposal with its 2015-16 allocation formula, a document with long-range implications that usually goes relatively unnoticed. In it, the district establishes how many of each kind of employee is required for schools and departments....

  9. More than half of Florida's school districts report problems as new tests get under way

    Testing

    The debut of Florida's new computerized testing system stumbled in its first hours Monday, as more than half of the state's school districts reported trouble accessing material online.

    Thousands of eighth-, ninth- and tenth-graders attempting to log in at the same time appeared to overload the system, causing a slowdown that prompted many schools to call off the writing test for the day. Among the details:...

    Megan Lipinczyk, right, a language arts teacher, helps Sai Chappadi, 10, while using new laptops last month at Turner/Bartels K-8 School in New Tampa. Officials were assessing whether servers can handle so many computers at once.
  10. Florida education news: Testing, science, bus safety and more

    Blog

    SESSION TIME: More education issues than testing face the Florida Legislature this spring — they just don't all have the same chance of passing. • Some lawmakers want another reconsideration of the state's class size fines, the Orlando Sentinel reports. • Gov. Rick Scott is depending on the Legislature to make some of his education campaign pledges come true....

  11. Some education bills stand a better chance than others as legislative session begins

    K12

    State Sen. Alan Hays' bill that would require middle and high school students to watch the conservative-leaning film America: Imagine the World Without Her has garnered reams of press since he filed it in November.

    Yet in the halls of Tallahassee, his highly publicized effort is not gaining much steam. Some observers have suggested it is one of the least likely bills to make it to Gov. Rick Scott's desk, much less out of its first committee....

  12. Florida education news: Fund raising, overcrowding, opting out and more

    Blog

    FIXING A HOLE: Hernando County community and parent groups raise money to pay for projects the school district can't afford.

    OFF TOPIC: A Palm Beach science teacher is removed from his classroom after steering his lecture from gentrification to religion, the Palm Beach Post reports....

  13. Florida education news: Opt out, hiring freeze, contract talks and more

    Blog

    TESTING: Parents and school districts across Florida prepare for opting out on testing day. More on opting out from the Orlando Sentinel. • One Pasco County teacher worries her students aren't ready. • Meanwhile, Florida lawmakers face a historic challenge to reform the testing system that has increasingly come under fire. • Alachua teachers are encouraged to create their own end-of-course exams, the Gainesville Sun reports....

  14. Florida school districts make plans for testing opt out students

    Blog

    Officially, Florida students may not opt out of state tests.

    That isn't stopping school districts from preparing for the inevitability that at least some children will try.

    Pasco County's testing director, for instance, sent a memo to principals late Thursday saying that children would have to sit quietly in the testing room if they refuse the Florida Standards Assessments. Brevard County, by contrast, will remove children from the testing sites....

  15. As interest grows in opting out of state tests, Florida school districts get ready

    Testing

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Laura Oosse has a tough decision to make in the next few days.

    Her fifth-grade son gets tics and feels anxiety when facing high-stakes tests. Yet he's equally nervous about telling his teachers he won't take them.

    In hopes of finding some practical advice, the North Pinellas mom drove 45 minutes Thursday to attend a parent meeting on opting out of the new state tests Florida will roll out next week....