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


    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....

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


    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....

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


    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....

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


    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....

  5. Charter school, choice legislation likely to move in Florida Legislature this session


    For two years, the Florida Senate squashed House attempts to revise the state's charter school laws. The 2015 session looks quite different.

    Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg, who operates a Pasco County charter school, this week filed a bill (SB 1448) that adopts the language of a House Choice and Innovation proposed committee bill on charters -- and then goes even further....

  6. Florida education news: African-American history, school zones, early warnings and more


    NOT QUITE: Outgoing Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia doesn't take home the national Superintendent of the Year honor.

    HISTORY LESSONS: The Hillsborough school district works to improve its African-American history curriculum....

  7. Florida lawmaker asks Department of Education for testing technology inventory


    The wheels are turning in Tallahassee to verify what Florida school districts have been saying about their technology needs.

    On the heels of a bill pushing for independent proof of schools' readiness, the chairman of Senate Education Appropriations has asked commissioner Pam Stewart for lots of details regarding what technology school districts should have, and do have....

  8. 'Success planning' aimed at determining if Pasco schools are meeting goals


    Forget strategic planning.

    The Pasco School Board is hip deep in a new "success planning" effort — for which it is paying more than $300,000 — to determine whether county schools are performing up to snuff.

    The overriding concept involves setting goals that can become measurable objectives and creating methods to accomplish those goals. Then the district would issue regular reports indicating whether they've met the marks....

  9. What are Florida superintendents saying about computerized testing?


    Florida's new computerized Florida Standards Assessments begin Monday. In the ramp up to testing, the state Department of Education had superintendents run "load tests" and certify whether their schools can handle the demands. 

    To take a page from Gov. Rick Scott's press releases, here's WHAT THEY ARE SAYING....

    More than a quarter of Florida superintendents raise concerns that students, teachers and schools are not ready for the spring testing cycle....

  10. Florida education news: Taxes, teacher contracts, service dogs and more


    TAXES: State Republican leaders suggest Florida Gov. Rick Scott's record education budget is based on tax hikes.

    SUPERINTENDENTS: The Hillsborough School Board prepares to offer a contract to Jeff Eakins by its June 9 meeting. • The Volusia School Board will interview consulting groups before picking a firm to help find a new superintendent, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reports. • The Palm Beach School Board rejects a plan to keep superintendent applicants' names private, the Palm Beach Post reports....

  11. Florida schools to receive recognition funds


    Through the flush times and the thin, Florida lawmakers never strayed from their recognition funding plan, giving extra money to schools that earned an A grade from the state or showed significant gains in student performance.

    The amount per student rose and fell, but the program never faltered.

    This week, the state announced the distribution of the money for last year's results. More than 1,500 schools will get about $124 million, which can go toward employee bonuses, school supplies or temporary staffing. Each year, the vast majority goes to employees....

  12. Florida Senate bill seeks outside proof of school districts' technology readiness


    As more Florida school districts say they aren't technologically ready for computerized testing, one key lawmaker has pointedly questioned their reports.

    Senate Education Committee chairman John Legg noted during a recent hearing that superintendents whisper about problems as they sign their names certifying readiness. Now, he's filed a bill aiming to take the system out of their hands....

  13. Pasco school district departments cut costs to cover testing expenses


    End-of-course exams in every subject area are fast approaching, as part of a Florida state mandate to evaluate teachers using student performance data.

    Pasco County schools have the tests ready. But officials are concerned that they don't have the technology to offer all the assessments online. They want to make the tests available on paper instead.

    Doing so isn't a simple process, though. It involves test security, for one thing, so teachers can't be accused of manipulating the system. The district assessment department describes its needs in a memo to the School Board in this way:...

  14. Florida education news: Testing, computers, vouchers and more


    ONE LESS TEST: Florida Gov. Rick Scott follows through with an executive order suspending the state's 11th-grade language arts exam. Juniors are happy.

    RECOGNITION: Melrose Elementary teacher Kim Lopez is Pinellas Teacher of the Year. • Williams Middle School teacher Diane McKee is Hillsborough Teacher of the Year....

  15. Florida Gov. Rick Scott suspends 11th grade tests

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE High-school juniors across Florida rejoiced Tuesday upon learning that Gov. Rick Scott had suspended the new 11th grade test in language arts.

    The move, coming only a week before the start of the 2015 legislative session, also won praise from school district leaders. "It is a step in the right direction," Pinellas Superintendent Mike Grego said.

    Critics, however, said Scott did not go far enough to address problems with the state's standardized testing program....