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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. ICYMI: Florida education news roundup, week of Oct. 4


    The hue and cry over Florida's testing and accountability system continued to intensify this past week, with more groups adding their voices to the call for a pause. Gov. Rick Scott's press office told the Times that Scott had no intention of setting the system off course. They were so insistent, in fact, that they called us twice to make sure we understood the answer was "No" to the question whether he would suspend school grading. Late buses remained a problem for Palm Beach schools, while Sarasota got to revisit the principal who lost his job after hypnotizing students who subsequently committed suicide. Follow these and other stories daily on the Gradebook. And please, let us know how we're doing. It's been more than a month of these weekly roundups. Like them? Hate them? Want something else? Send your comments to, and thanks for reading....

  2. Don't forget to justify travel, Pasco School Board chairman warns staff


    Just over a year ago, Pasco County school district officials landed in hot water for making out-of-state trips without getting School Board permission ahead of time. Going forward, Superintendent Kurt Browning pledged to bring any travel requests to the board in advance, or disapprove them....

  3. Florida education news: Pledge of allegiance, school security, hypnosis and more


    FREE SPEECH: A Hillsborough Community College advisory board creates a stir when it decides to drop the Pledge of Allegiance at its meetings.

    SECURITY: Clearwater High goes on lockdown after a student lies about seeing a gun on campus. * An 8-year-old Manatee student is arrested after threatening his teacher with a knife, the Bradenton Herald reports....

  4. Will Gov. Rick Scott suspend Florida school grades? No.


    So many groups have called on Florida Gov. Rick Scott to "pause" the state's school accountability rules for 2015, it seemed the right time to put the question to him (well, his press office, really).

    The response: "Governor Scott believes in accountability and results. DOE (Department of Education) will continue to follow the law."...

  5. Florida lawmakers again seek to scale back restraint and seclusion of students with disabilities


    Floridians long have criticized schools' use of restraint and seclusion in handling out-of-control students with disabilities. Rule changes have been discussed since 2009, to limited effect despite clear intentions.

    State Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican, is ready to try again. Flores has filed SB 452 this week with very direct goals: It would ban all student seclusion, and limit restraint to times of imminent risk of serious injury or death....

  6. Pasco's 'quarterly check' format could change, superintendent says


    The launch of Pasco County's new "quarterly check" testing system has come under fire just days after its official launch. Some parents have contacted district officials to criticize the model, complaining that their children are being tested on materials they haven't learned, several days before the first quarter ends....

  7. Florida education news: Charter schools, testing, high school sports and more


    CHARTER SCHOOLS: Charter Schools USA seeks to open four new schools in Hillsborough County. * The Palm Beach School Board rejects three charter applications, the Sun-Sentinel reports....

  8. As expected, district analysis shows test scores tied heavily to socioeconomics


    Pasco County School District officials did their best last week to downplay preliminary Florida Standards Assessment results, citing several ways they felt the data fell short.

    Among their concerns, the information did not have any point of comparison, because the tests and the standards had changed from a year earlier. Also, they noted that the numbers only compared students to one another, with no connection to academic expectations....

  9. Five activist organizations call on Gov. Rick Scott for accountability pause


    Two key Florida civil rights organizations, along with three parent groups, have joined the growing crowd calling for reconsideration of the way the state's spring test results are used.

    The NAACP and League of United Latin American Citizens Florida branches, Miami-Dade PTA, Fund Education Now and Parents Across America-Florida sent a letter Wednesday to Gov. Rick Scott, asking for an executive order suspending the application of 2015 Florida Standards Assessment scores for school grades, teacher evaluations and other consequences. The test administration was plagued with technology problems, and a subsequent validity study raised as many questions as it answered....

  10. Pasco's Sunray Elementary School to get a new principal


    Pasco County's principal musical chairs continues, with the appointment of Sunray Elementary principal Lee Anne Yerkey to lead Schrader Elementary School.

    The Schrader post became available in late September, when principal Tammy Berryhill was named an area superintendent. The Sunray job was advertised on Monday....

  11. Pasco school district offers bonuses for help finding bus drivers


    The Pasco County school district really wants to hire more bus drivers.

    How badly?

    The district has offered employees $100 bonuses for transportation employees who refer a candidate, payable after that new bus driver completes all needed training and successfully works four weeks.

    The situation is dire, assistant superintendent Ray Bonti said. Currently, the district has about 60 vacancies in a 400-driver department....

  12. Has Florida's testing pendulum swung too far?


    The Florida Department of Education is fighting mightily to keep school grading on track. But the state's superintendents are gaining momentum as they step forward with their "enough is enough" message....

  13. Florida education news: Suspensions, toy guns, late buses and more


    DISCIPLINE: Pasco school district officials take steps to undo disproportional suspensions of black students.

    TIME TO GO: Tarpon Spring High's principal requests a transfer after his handling of a death threat comes under fire....

  14. Pasco will correct heavier discipline for black students


    LAND O'LAKES — Black students are twice as likely as their classmates to be suspended from Pasco County schools, and officials said Tuesday the district is using a new data system to pinpoint the problem and aggressively attack it.

    The rate is worse for black students with disabilities, who were suspended or expelled at nearly 3.5 times the rate of other students in special programs, according to the most recent available data....

    Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning says the district will address the disciplinary problems, which are “nothing we can run from.” [Times files (2012)]
  15. Pasco's magnet school planning delayed, for now


    Plans to offer more magnet school options to Pasco County students face a time crunch, because of technical problems.

    District officials intended to survey parents about theme preferences in recent weeks, and make recommendations for the School Board's consideration by October....