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. Over-testing in schools? Lee County's vote has educators talking about it

    Testing

    The debate over high stakes testing in Florida schools has raged for years.

    Parent groups have railed against it. School board leaders have deplored it. Just four days ago, Gov. Rick Scott called on his Department of Education to conduct a "thorough investigation" of standardized tests.

    It took a vote by the Lee County School Board on Wednesday to push the discussion to a new dimension....

    Lee County School Board member Don Armstrong, a longtime opponent of Common Core and testing, looks on after he voted to opt out of state mandated testing during a board meeting at the Lee County School District on Wednesday in Fort Myers. Board members decided to opt the district out of high stakes testing. [Associated Press]
  2. Still no pay proposal in Pasco school contract negotiations

    Blog

    With employees back to work nearly a month, the Pasco County school district had hoped to have pay and benefit terms close to closure by now.

    Instead, the first proposal has yet to hit the negotiating table. 

    Small details have emerged, such as the district's intention to give raises -- although the level has shrunk from 2 percent to 1 percent. The United School Employees of Pasco has talked about increasing wages for teachers who substitute in their colleagues' classrooms....

  3. Pasco district's 8.5 program helps struggling students transition to high school

    K12

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Until almost the last minute, Joseph Salvatore didn't think he would make it to Gulf High School.

    Joseph, 14, had completed all his eighth grade courses. But he still hadn't passed seventh grade civics or science, and so technically he didn't qualify for promotion to his freshman year.

    "They were saying, 'If you don't finish, you are going to Schwettman,'" Joseph recalled, referring to Pasco County's west side alternative school. "Then the principal called and told us they were working out something with Gulf High."...

    Joseph Salvatore, 14, is a Gulf High School student in the Pasco school district’s new 8.5 program.
  4. Florida education news: Voucher lawsuit, testing opt-out, English learners and more

    Blog

    VOUCHERS: A coalition of education groups plans to file suit against Florida's corporate tax credit scholarship program, prompting a flurry of criticism and threats from voucher backers.

    GETTING ALONG: The candidates remaining in the hunt for Hillsborough School Board seats say they will seek a more collegial atmosphere for the board and district....

  5. Florida leaders call on feds to reverse course on ELL testing

    Blog

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott and education commissioner Pam Stewart have given the U.S. Department of Education 30 days to change its position on Florida's accountability measures relating to English learners.

    If the feds don't relent, they said, the state will begin investigating "every legal option available" to maintain its two-year flexibility in counting test scores for those students in school grades....

  6. Pasco School Board has questions about after-the-fact requests

    Blog

    At least one Pasco School Board member is growing frustrated with staff requests for approval of spending for activities that have already taken place.

    Two schools have asked the board, which next meets Sept. 2, for permission to hold training sessions that took place in early August. Weightman Middle conducted its positive behavior training event on Aug. 5-7, while Zephyrhills High ran its Advanced Placement Preparation Academy Workshop on Aug. 7-8....

  7. Florida governor, commissioner to ramp up pressure over ELL testing

    Blog

    Gov. Rick Scott and education commissioner Pam Stewart head to Miami this afternoon, where they're expected to announce Florida's planned pushback against federal opposition to state policies regarding the testing of students still learning English.

    The U.S. Department of Education recently told state officials that Florida could lose its No Child Left Behind waiver if it does not change the way it counts state test results of English-language learners. Florida law says the students' scores will not count toward school grades until they've been in a U.S. school at least two years, while the feds want those results to be included immediately....

  8. Florida education news: Elections, prayers, unions and more

    Blog

    ELECTION NEWS: Incumbents win new terms in Pinellas and Pasco, stay on track for reelection in Hillsborough but lose big in Hernando....

  9. Luikart easily wins second term on Pasco School Board

    K12

    Pasco School Board vice chairman Steve Luikart handily won a second term on Tuesday, holding steady all evening at just over 70 percent of the vote against challenger Marc Yacht.

    Luikart, a retired high school assistant principal, said he was gratified by the public belief in him.

    "I will continue to be me," he said. "If I see something wrong, I will speak out about it. That's why they elected me."...

    Steve Luikart is a retired high school assistant principal.
  10. Area school board results deliver good news for incumbents

    Blog

    With all but a few precincts reporting, Pasco County School Board vice chairman Steve Luikart was cruising to an easy reelection victory, holding about 72 percent of the ballots cast over challenger Marc Yacht.

    Luikart, who's in line to become chairman in November, said he appreciated the public support and belief in his efforts.

    "I am a student advocate and I will continue to be a student advocate," the retired high school assistant principal said. "If I see something wrong I will speak out about it. That's why they elected me."...

  11. Pasco middle school asks permission to spend money after it's already spent

    Blog

    The Pasco School Board will have to decide next Tuesday whether to approve the expenditure of $1,327.50 nearly four weeks after the money was spent.

    Brandon Bracciale, principal of Weightman Middle School, has asked the board to allow him to use money from the school's advisory council funds, in support of a summer planning program. It would cover the time of five teachers working three six-hour days, at $14.75 an hour....

  12. Pasco school district makes progress on strategic plan

    Blog

    At first, Pasco County School Board members balked at the $290,000-plus price tag attached to superintendent Kurt Browning's new strategic planning consultant.

    Now the process is under way, though, and board members say they've been taken by the results so far. They've said some of the input from district employees has proven revealing and could lead to changes in the system....

  13. Several area school board races to be decided today

    Blog

    The direction that Tampa area school districts will head could take shape today as voters choose their next school board members.

    Four of five Pinellas County board seat winners will be determined with the primary outcome, as well as one Pasco County position and one Hernando County spot. All those races have only two candidates, meaning the victor takes to the dais come November without any further campaigning....

  14. Florida education news: Remedial courses, opting out, graduation honors and more

    Blog

    TESTING: Gov. Rick Scott calls for a review of Florida's testing system. Scott's effort misses the point of why parents are upset, columnist John Romano writes....