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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

Email: jsolochek@tampabay.com

Blog: The Gradebook

Twitter: @JeffSolochek

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  1. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of March 19, 2017

    Blog

    It was another active week for Florida education news, with controversial measures moving through the Legislature and new revelations about achievement and access gaps for minority children. A federal judge allowed immigrant families to pursue their lawsuit alleging Collier County schools denied their children an education, and the Jefferson County School Board approved a contract to have all its schools run by a charter operator....

  2. Senator proposes more autonomy for Florida school board members visiting schools

    Blog

    Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, has offered an amendment to her testing legislation that has nothing to do with testing at all.

    Rather, Flores has proposed 21 lines that would ensure school board members have unfettered access to schools in their districts. The amendment would allow individual board members to visit any traditional or charter school "on any day and at any time at his or her pleasure."...

  3. Sen. Montford remains confident Florida testing will be scaled back

    Blog

    The chief proponent of legislation to significantly scale back Florida's high-stakes testing system is sounding upbeat about the chances for success, even after his bill was left off the Senate Education Committee's next meeting agenda while a competing measure appeared.

    "I'm confident that one way or another we'll get our bill heard," Sen. Bill Montford, the Tallahassee Democrat who also heads the state superintendents association, told the Gradebook. "If not, maybe they can do a committee bill."...

    Sen. Bill Montford
  4. Gradebook podcast: Education bills on the move, turnaround schools and more

    Blog

    Times education reporter Jeff Solochek highlights some of the bills moving closer to becoming to state education law, including SB 964 and SB 926 on testing, SB 436 and HB 303 on religious expression, and HB 591 and SB 808 on class size. Then Times education reporter Marlene Sokol joins the conversation for a discussion of the efforts to improve four-time F-rated Potter Elementary School. Read Sokol's story and follow-up for more details....

    Potter Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Ciera Fox, 28, who attended Potter as a child, says repetition and routines help to comfort kids as they take on responsibility.
  5. Florida education news: Religious speech, teacher contracts, free lunch and more

    Blog

    RELIGIOUS SPEECH: The Florida Senate adopts a controversial bill aimed at allowing more religious expression in public schools, including among employees.

    TEACHER CONTRACTS: The Florida House moves ahead legislation to prevent school districts from negotiating added job protections for teachers on annual contract....

  6. Bill to limit job guarantees for annual contract teachers advances in Florida House

    Blog

    Since Florida lawmakers eliminated annual contracts for public school teachers, a majority of the state's school districts including Pinellas have guaranteed yearly renewals to those educators who earned an "effective" or "highly effective" evaluation rating.

    The Florida House Education Committee on Thursday moved to end that authority. On a split vote, the committee favored a bill (HB 373) prohibiting school boards from awarding any contractual terms beyond what's provided in law....

  7. Florida education news: Rezoning, teacher unions, grad rates and more

    Blog

    REZONING: The fate of the Pasco County school district's newly approved attendance boundaries sits in the hands of a state special hearing officer.

    LABOR NEWS: The Florida House advances "union busting" legislation that has little chance of becoming law. • The fight over who will lead the Palm Beach Classroom Teachers Association continues, with one candidate claiming the union is trying to tie him to Donald Trump, the Palm Beach Post reports....

  8. Pasco school boundary dispute now up to judge

    Education

    The fate of recently approved school boundary maps for east and west Pasco County now lies in the hands of state administrative judge D.W. Alexander.

    Over two lengthy hearings, held Feb. 27-28 and March 15, Alexander listened to parents and school district officials offer frequently opposing testimony about the attendance zone process and whether it met the letter of state law.

    If he sides with the parents, and finds the board did not follow proper rule-making procedures, the district could have to conduct the rezoning again....

  9. Charter school operators criticize Florida's new capital outlay funding rule

    Blog

    Florida charter school operators took issue Wednesday with proposed rules governing their access to state capital outlay funding, a subject of heavy debate almost annually in Tallahassee....

    Mark Gotz of the Florida Association of Independent Public Schools questions the rationale behind proposed charter school rules before the State Board of Education on Wednesday.
  10. Florida Board of Education raises concerns over services for English-language learners

    Blog

    Changes to federal law have the Florida Department of Education proposing several amendments to state rules for English-language learners, including one proposal that has many advocates up in arms.

    The recommendation to lower the proficiency level on Florida's annual assessment for ELL students hase raised concerns that children could be labeled as not needing language services and then pushed out of the program before they are ready....

    Florida Board of Education member Rebecca Fishman Lipsey calls the state's proficiency level for English-language learners "outstandingly low."
  11. Are class size counts on their way out for Florida's class size enforcement?

    Blog

    Both chambers of the Florida Legislature this week advanced bills that would end penalties for schools that do not meet voter mandated class size requirements at the classroom level.

    SB 808 and HB 591 would eliminate fines on schools with classrooms that miss the mark, instead allowing them to measure class size as a schoolwide average. The legislation faced no opposition in either the Senate Education Committee or the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee....

    The House PreK-12 Appropriations subcommittee discusses scaling back penalties on class size violations.
  12. Florida education news: Testing, busing, superintendent hiring and more

    Blog

    TESTING: The Florida Senate Education Committee begins a conversation on what changes to bring to state testing, the News Service of Florida reports.

    STUDENT TRANSPORTATION: Martin County parents angrily criticize the school district's plan to eliminate courtesy bus rides for students living 2 miles or closer to school, TC Palm reports....

  13. Religious expression bill keeps moving in Florida Senate, without changes

    Blog

    The Florida Senate pressed ahead Tuesday with legislation that would give students and personnel more freedom of religious expression in the state's public schools.

    SB 436 has become a priority of Senate President Joe Negron, even as critics have questioned its constitutionality. Florida House members scaled back a once-identical HB 303 to answer some of the concerns....

    Sen. Dennis Baxley says his bill clarifies when public school students and personnel may speak about religious issues.
  14. Florida House subcommittee advances bill to monitor pre-k student gains

    Blog

    Since Florida voters approved a voluntary prekindergarten program 15 years ago, early education advocates have stressed the need to know how well the children and their schools have performed during the year.

    That means assessing student abilities at the start and the end of their program. 

    "Not tested. I'm not talking about baby FCATs here," key proponent David Lawrence explained in 2007, as he critiqued the program. "He would be assessed for how ready he is. How is he doing? Where is he vis-a-vis early literacy? How is he doing socially and emotionally? ... That assessment would then form your child's instruction and learning for the next several months. We would say ... he does real well in this and this, but he needs some help in this and this. And then during the course of the year a teacher would help him. And then at the end of the year we would minimally see, where is he now? What did he get from the program? And in an ideal program, this would be done several times during the year."...

  15. Gradebook podcast: Does new Florida law hurt school districts seeking construction funding?

    Blog

    The Bay County school district recently pulled the plug on a planned new school after learning state laws could hinder its ability to get sufficient financing. Reporter Jeff Solochek spoke with James Loyed, the district's finance services manager, about the concerns leaders have, and how the scenario might play itself out in growing school districts across Florida....