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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. As the revolt over school testing widens, many in Florida ask: What next?


    Florida's education accountability system stands at a crossroad.

    Its supporters remain committed to testing student knowledge and holding schools and teachers responsible for the results. The years-long endeavor has improved academic performance statewide, including among historically overlooked minorities.

    "It is the right thing to do," said education commissioner Pam Stewart. "Students are at the forefront. They're the most important thing I consider every day."...

  2. ICYMI: Florida education news roundup, week of Sept. 27


    Testing continued to dominate state-level education discussions around Florida, as the state Department of Education issued preliminary Florida Standards Assessment results amid a rising chorus of requests to limit the use of the information. Florida's class size law got some added scrutiny, with a Palm Beach dad suing over the way his child's school implements the rules. And the Common Core started to resurface as a policy debate for candidates seeking state office. Read about these and other Florida education stories daily on the Gradebook. Have ideas for coverage? Send your comments to

  3. Another view on Florida's proposed testing cut scores


    When Florida's superintendents released their recommendations to revise the state education accountability laws, their original proposal relating to testing cut scores was notably absent....

  4. Florida education news: Attendance zones, dorm life, vacation days and more


    REZONING: The Hernando School Board faces few complaints as it redraws school attendance zones.

    DORM LIFE: New University of Tampa housing rules upset students....

  5. Best and Brightest application period ends today


    Today's the deadline for Florida teachers to apply for the controversial Best and Brightest bonus that lawmakers created in the spring.

    Since its inception, the $44 million fund had been subjected to criticism over its criteria -- it's based in part on teachers' SAT or ACT scores -- as well as teachers' ability to comply with the rules. Finding and securing official records documenting their years-old test scores has proven difficult for many, while others scrambled to take the tests in the limited time frame....

  6. Florida education news: Testing, superintendents, dads and more


    TESTING: Florida schools get a first look at how their students performed on the spring Florida Standards Assessments.

    SUPERINTENDENTS: Hernando School Board members debate whether to renegotiate superintendent Lori Romano's contract....

  7. Where did your school fall in Florida's testing?


    The Florida Standards Assessments results issued Wednesday show little more than how one school or district performed in comparison to another. In many ways, the outcomes align closely to socioeconomics.

    Gains are not accounted for, nor are the actual performance against the academic standards.

    Still, within the results you can see where a school had high percentages of students at the top of the scale, and those with high levels of students at the bottom....

  8. Superintendent urges caution when evaluating state school grades


    Shortly after calling for a "total rewrite" of Florida education accountability laws, Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning has told parents to view 2015 school grades with caution.

    "I have little confidence in this year's (Florida Standards Assessments) results and the corresponding school grades that will be released this fall," Browning said in a newsletter sent to parents last week. "Regardless of our students' performance results, there is too much uncertainty about the test and its administration for me to feel comfortable with the use of the results for any high-stakes reason."...

  9. Florida superintendents offer proposed bill language on accountability


    The Florida Association of District School Superintendents upped the ante on accountability Wednesday, reiterating its mistrust in the state education accountability system and offering proposed legislation to fix it.

    Its proposal, which is still being drafted, calls for these steps:

    Delay the issuance of school grades until the 2015-2016 school year.
    Specify that for the 2014-2015 school year, each school will receive an "I" or "Incomplete" as a school grade or school improvement rating. However, the school grade components relating to performance will be calculated and reported. This would include:
    • Percentage of students passing FSA in English Language Arts.
    • Percentage of students passing FSA in math or Algebra 1.
    • Percentage of students passing statewide assessments in social studies.
    • For middle schools, the percentage of students passing high school standardized EOCs or attaining national industry certifications.
    • In addition, for high schools: the 4-year high school graduation rate; percentage of students eligible to earn college and career credit.
    Redefine learning gains to accurately reflect a year's worth of growth in a year's worth of time.
    Require the Department of Education to conduct a comprehensive review of the accountability system.
    Require the Commissioner of Education to submit the report and corresponding recommendations to the Governor and Legislature by December 1, 2016.

  10. Florida Prepaid sets new rates ahead of registration window


    Florida parents seeking to enroll their children in the state's prepaid tuition program will pay a bit more than the would have a year ago, but still far less than before lawmakers reduced the costs....

  11. Preliminary Florida test results released: See the charts


    The Florida Department of Education issued a first round of results from the spring 2015 Florida Standards Assessments this morning. The publicly released portion shows, by district, what percentages of students scores in each of the four quartiles on each test.

    The numbers are generally spread evenly, but there also are some deviations, particularly among poor rural districts. That was to be expected, superintendents suggested, as they called upon the state to not use the data for school grades because they don't show gains over time....

  12. Many are not impressed as Florida releases first school test results


    Initial results from Florida's controversial new tests arrived at schools Wednesday amid a chorus of criticism that the data shouldn't count.

    Jinia Parker, a testing reform advocate from Pinellas County, echoed many, calling a recent validity study of the numbers "a farce" and declaring that "the results don't matter at all." She said a more detailed report due later this month "would be of better use lining the litter box than giving an indication of what our students know."...

    The screen students see when they log in to take the Florida Standards Assessments.

 Florida's troubles with its new computerized testing system this week [

Photo: Pasco County School District]
  13. Florida education news: Class size, advanced courses, teacher bonuses and more


    FINANCES: The Hillsborough School Board agrees to hire an independent auditor

    CLOSER LOOK: Pinellas district officials review the occurrences at Tarpon Springs High after a death threat, but won't share details. ...

  14. Florida schools to get FSA test results this week, with reports to parents next month


    And the results are in.

    At 3 p.m. this afternoon, Florida's school districts will begin getting results of the spring 2015 Florida Standards Assessments, with a bigger data dump coming at 6 a.m. Wednesday morning.

    The information coming will include district and school level outcomes in percentiles, so districts and schools will be able to see how their students performed in comparison to others in the state, by test. The cut scores (Levels 1-5) have not yet been set, as the tests are new and not comparable to past years' exams....