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. Calls to suspend state-mandated testing intensify as more school districts weigh in


    Six weeks into the new school year, educators and parents across Florida again are sounding alarms about the state's ability to conduct reliable and fair testing this spring.

    Twelve school districts representing about half the state's public school enrollment are preparing to take their concerns to state officials. Among their worries:

    • New tests, including the Florida Standards Assessments, or FSA, and thousands of local end-of-course exams, are being launched without proper validation....

  2. Pasco superintendent rejects teacher planning time grievance


    Pasco schools superintendent Kurt Browning said he understands teachers' concerns that they don't have enough time to plan and prepare for their jobs.

    However, Browning said, the United School Employees of Pasco did not demonstrate that the district was violating teachers' contractual rights as it required them to attend weekly professional learning community sessions. He noted that teachers have received the 100 weekly minutes of independent planning, and that the remaining 150 minutes in the contract may be assigned by principals....

  3. Incoming Florida House speaker calls for continued testing


    While the drumbeat for a scaling back of Florida testing continues, incoming House speaker Steve Crisafulli will hear none of it.

    In a guest column for Florida Today, Crisafulli says parents' complaints would be troubling, "if the allegations were true."

    "Relegating students to mindlessly bubble forms is not the way to educate children," he writes. "Parents should know the facts about testing, because unraveling our current system would have significant negative consequences on student learning, education funding, and, ultimately, a graduate's ability to find a job in today's global marketplace."...

  4. Florida education news: Diploma mills, UFOs, testing and more


    STILL GROWING: Hillsborough charter schools see enrollment increases despite some high-profile problems. • Northwest Florida school districts see larger than expected enrollment growth, the Northwest Florida Daily News reports....

  5. Florida Board of Education budget recommendation mirrors Gov. Rick Scott's campaign pledge


    The Florida Board of Education will consider its 2015-16 legislative budget request when it meets next week Monday in Tampa.

    The LBR looks an awful lot like Gov. Rick Scott's campaign platform for education....

  6. Details firm up for Pasco's first magnet school


    The Pasco school district is honing the specifics for its new STEAM magnet school at Sanders Elementary as its Tuesday parent information meeting nears.

    Among the latest tidbits:

    - Students may begin applying in December, with students coming from overcrowded Connerton and Oakstead elementary schools getting extra priority in the lottery process. Children of faculty members would get secondary priority. Overall, the plan is to have the student body be geographically balanced and to mirror the community demographics....

  7. Florida education news: Teacher training, Common Core, critical thinking and more


    TRAINING TIME: Pasco district leaders look for ways to reduce professional development events that take teachers out of classrooms.

    STANDARDS: A Hillsborough fifth grade classroom is the focal point for a CBS News report on how Common Core is changing instruction....

  8. Pasco schools pledge to focus on attendance — of teachers


    LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning arrived at his office Wednesday to find a sea of cars in the usually half-filled parking lot.

    Hundreds of teachers had come to attend training sessions as part of a concentrated two-week professional development push.

    Browning supports giving teachers the training. But on the heels of announcing plans to improve the district's excessive student absenteeism rate, the superintendent had something else on his mind....

    Kurt Browning wants teachers in their classrooms.
  9. Florida education news: School board races, college counseling, breastfeeding and more


    SEEKING OFFICE: The candidates for Hillsborough School Board District 4 focus on conservative issues.

    CAMPUS RAPES: Few reported rapes on Florida university campuses are prosecuted....

  10. Florida education news: Crowding, college costs, grenade launchers and more


    NO VACANCY: Hernando's Winding Waters K-8 hits its capacity, forcing the district to send new students who move in to other less crowded schools.

    COLLEGE COSTS: The Legislature should create a program that helps make college affordable for low-income students, the Times editorializes....

  11. Pasco superintendent holds hearing over teacher planning


    Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning made one thing clear during his 90-minute hearing over teachers' complaint about planning time. He wanted to ensure that the district meets its contractual obligations.

    "I want to be sure if contract language is there, that we're following the contract language," Browning said.

    The United School Employees of Pasco contended that the district was falling short. Business representative Jim Ciadella said the contract sets aside 40 minutes for training in a collaborative environment, also referred to as a professional learning communities. Yet many schools demand more, he claimed....

  12. Pasco teachers, administration compromise on planning time


    The battle over planning for Pasco County teachers took a twist Thursday, as the district teachers union and administration inked a deal increasing the amount of time teachers will have to prepare independently each week.

    Concerned that required professional learning community meetings were eating into teachers' individual prep time, the United School Employees of Pasco proposed giving teachers 400 minutes of weekly planning rather than the current 250. All the extra time would have given teachers the ability to do things such as make copies and prepare their rooms, USEP officials said....

  13. Florida education news: Paddling, killer bees, driver education and more


    CHARTER SCHOOLS: Four low performing Pinellas charter schools present improvement plans to the School Board. • The St. John's School Board finds several problems with a charter school application, the St. Augustine Record reports. • The Sarasota school district requires action plans from two Imagine charter schools with financial problems, the Herald-Tribune reports....

  14. Florida Virtual School may sue over naming trademarks


    The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that Florida Virtual School can sue Florida Virtual Academy over its name.

    "We hold that the Florida Virtual School’s statutory authority to 'acquire, enjoy, use, and dispose of . . . trademarks and any licenses and other rights or interests thereunder or therein,' and the designation of its board of trustees as a 'body corporate with all the powers of a body corporate and such authority as is needed for the proper operation and improvement of the Florida Virtual School,' necessarily includes the authority to file an action to protect those trademarks," the Court stated in a ruling issued Thursday....

  15. Voucher supporters seek backing from Pasco School Board


    Crystal Kryder had a simple message for the Pasco County School Board: Support vouchers.

    Students come to First Christian Academy in New Port Richey for many reasons, the mother of three told the board, and not all can afford the cost. Step Up For Students, the organization that oversees the state's corporate tax credit scholarships, makes it happen for nearly half of the school's students, she said....