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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. 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....

  2. 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.
  3. 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."
  4. 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.
  5. 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....

  6. 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.
  7. 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."...

  8. 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....

  9. Florida education news: Construction funds, charter schools, recess and more

    Blog

    NEW DIRECTION: Hillsborough County superintendent Jeff Eakins talks about the challenges and changes he's experienced since taking the top spot in the nation's eighth largest school district.

    HIGHER ED: The Florida House takes a different direction than the Senate on proposed changes to the state's college and university system, the News Service of Florida reports....

  10. Florida Board of Education to meet one member short, one expired

    Blog

    When the Florida Board of Education convenes on Wednesday in Tallahassee, its membership will remain one person shy of a full panel.

    Gov. Rick Scott has yet to replace John Padget, the Monroe County businessman and one-time schools superintendent whose second term expired in December. Padget is not eligible for reappointment.

    Orlando lawyer Michael Olenick's term also ended in December. Scott has not placed Olenick's name back before the Senate for consideration, or chosen anyone else for the slot....

    Florida Board of Education member Michael Olenick with Gov. Rick Scott
  11. Florida House panel moves to make some state tests publicly available

    Blog

    Since Florida's public education system relies so heavily on testing, Rep. Randy Fine says, it only makes sense that parents should be able to see what those tests look like.

    His bill (HB 549) aims to do just that, creating a rolling three-year schedule to release, at a minimum, the exams for third grade language arts and math, tenth grade language arts and Algebra I. The Legislature requires students to pass three of the four for promotion or graduation....

    Rep. Randy Fine wants several state tests to be made public for parent review.
  12. Florida PTA praises Gov. Rick Scott's education budget

    Blog

    Remember back in 2011, when a brand new Gov. Rick Scott proposed cutting billions of dollars from Florida's education budget? Education advocacy groups roundly blasted the eventual cuts of about $1 billion, and held the reduction over his head with every budget he brought forth afterward calling for new levels of education funding....

  13. Florida education news: State funding, constitution revision, Bright Futures and more

    Blog

    BUDGET CUTS: Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran says higher education spending will be cut. He tells a Pensacola crowd that K-12 spending should be protected, though, the Pensacola News-Journal reports....

  14. ICYMI: Florida education news in review, week of March 12, 2017

    Blog

    Florida's Legislature kept conversation about education issues lively this past week, with debate over religious expression, recess and testing among the hot topics. School districts that weren't on spring break dealt with matters as wide ranging as when to change out principals and whether to cut student busing.

    You can keep up with our conversation on Facebook, hear our podcast, and follow our blog to get all the latest Florida education news. All tips, comments and ideas welcome. Know anyone else who'd like to get this weekly roundup or other email updates? Have them send a note to jsolochek@tampabay.com....

  15. Gradebook podcast: Class size, financial literacy, school grades and more

    Blog

    Reporter Jeff Solochek and editor Tom Tobin discuss bills in the Legislature that would relax class size rules, add a required high school class on financial literacy and require the state to study why Florida's middle schools are lagging. Plus discussions on letter grades for schools, university salaries and more.

    ...

    Thirty-five students pack the rug for a lesson as co-teachers Ann Renee Evans and Cassandra Hinson, right, lead the way at Connerton Elementary in 2013. The two were assigned to teach as a team to comply with class size rules. A bill in the Legislature would relax those rules to give schools more flexibility in setting class sizes.