John O'Connor

Reporter

John O’Connor is a reporter for StateImpact Florida, a project of WLRN and WUSF covering education. John writes for the StateImpact Florida blog and produces stories for air on Florida public radio stations.

John is a former political reporter for The (Columbia, S.C.) State and the Daily Record in Baltimore. He has a bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College and a master’s degree from the University of Maryland. He was chosen as the South Carolina Press Association 2009 Journalist of the Year.

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StateImpact Florida
8:49 pm
Mon December 22, 2014

Education: The Year In Review -- And What To Expect In 2015

Barry University's Sean Foreman thinks Gov. Rick Scott will deliver on a promise for record per-student education funding.
Credit John O'Connor / WLRN

2014 was a big year for education in Florida.

Activists in Lee County convinced the school board to ditch state testing -- before the board reversed the decision a couple of days later.

Florida schools pushed ahead with new Common Core-based math and language arts standards in every grade, despite rising opposition to Common Core across the country.

And education was a top issue during the governor’s race.

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#CubaPolicy
10:23 am
Thu December 18, 2014

How Social Media Reacted To The Cuba Announcement

Lazaro Lozano, center, protests against President Obama's decision to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States while at Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho in Miami on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.
Credit Al Diaz / Miami Herald

President Barack Obama shook up a half-century of U.S.-Cuba relations Wednesday, announcing the two countries had agreed to start normalizing relations. Obama wants to set up an embassy in Havana, loosen travel restrictions and allow more trade between the two countries.

South Florida's Cuban-American delegation in Congress criticized the announcement -- calling Obama the "Appeaser-in-Chief." Protesters shouted down the president in Little Havana.

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StateImpact Florida
6:01 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Why Miami-Dade High School Students Are Teaching Their Classmates About Health

HIP founder Risa Berrin says the program always provides food during after school training sessions because some students don't get regular meals at home.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Abuse. Drugs. Mental health issues.

It’s tough enough for anyone to talk about those problems. It can be even harder for teens facing them for the first time.

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StateImpact Florida
11:56 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Why First-Generation Students Find It Tougher To Earn A College Degree

Cecilia, one of the students featured in "First Generation," will be in Miami for a screening Tuesday. This is a still from the documentary.
Credit Courtesy of "First Generation."

Students who are the first in their family to attend college often have a more difficult time finishing their degree.

Research shows those students know less about how to get into and pay for college. They're also less likely to take tough high school courses needed to prepare for college.

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State Testing
10:12 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Your Guide To The Florida Standards Assessments

This reading test question asks students to drag items which correctly answer the question into the box.
Credit Screen shot / Florida Department of Education

We're taking this week to help parents and students understand the new Florida Standards Assessments, which students will take for the first time beginning in March.

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StateImpact Florida
12:08 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Meet Florida's New Statewide Test

Credit freedigitalphotos.net

This spring, Florida students will take a brand new test tied to the state’s new math, reading and writing standards.

This is the test that replaces the FCAT. It's known as the Florida Standards Assessment, and it’ll be online.

What’s on the test won’t be the only thing different about the exam. Students will also find new types of questions.

We gathered your questions about the new exam from our Public Insight Network. Here’s what you you wanted to know -- and what it’ll mean for students and schools.

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StateImpact Florida
11:17 pm
Sun November 16, 2014

Florida Teachers Consider 'Civil Disobedience' To Say No To Testing

Miramar High School teacher David Ross says testing has taken more and more time away from teaching. He refused to administer an FCAT make-up exam in protest.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

In September, Alachua County kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles refused to give a state reading test.

She told the parents of her students it was an act of civil disobedience.  The Florida Department of Education later suspended the exam for this year.

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Education
12:07 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Three Questions With State Sen. John Legg About His Technology Summit

State Sen. John Legg is gathering experts from schools, the technology industry, business and universities to talk about helping Florida schools integrate more technology.
Credit jaredearle / Flickr

Today in Tampa, lawmakers, superintendents, businesspeople and state university staff will gather to talk about using technology in Florida classrooms. The summit was the idea of Senate Education chairman John Legg, R-Trinity. We asked him what he wanted to accomplish:

You are gathering some school and education leaders together… to talk about school technology. Why are you doing this and what do you hope to learn?

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StateImpact Florida
12:19 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

"Ballin' On A Budget": How A Miami Teacher Keeps His Library Stocked

Some of the books in Daniel Dickey's classroom library.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern High School teacher Daniel Dickey says there's no silver bullet or secret book which will spark a student's interest in reading.

Instead, he says he asks questions and listens.

"I sit down with that student and really figure out what is it that drives you?" Dickey says. "Why do you come to school? Why are you here every day?"

He asks them about their plans, their dreams.

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StateImpact Florida
9:19 pm
Sun November 9, 2014

To Make High Schoolers Want To Read, Miami Teacher Makes It A Competition

Miami Northwestern Senior High writing teacher Daniel Dickey says you have to be a good reader to be a good writer. He's challenged his student to read one million words this year.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern High School English teacher Daniel Dickey has found a way to make his tenth graders brag about their reading skills.

Mischael Saint-Sume and Ciji Wright tease each other about who's going to read one million words first -- a contest Dickey created.

“Did you put him in his place?" Dickey asked Wright. "Because Mischael, he’s popping in my classroom every day with a new book."

“Oh don’t worry about it because I’ve got plenty of books for him,” Wright replied.

“But it ends today, by the way," Saint-Sume said. “I’m going to hit a million.”

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Congress
1:23 am
Wed November 5, 2014

Curbelo Reclaims Florida's Southernmost Congressional Seat For GOP

Carlos Curbelo celebrates victory Tuesday.

Miami-Dade school board member Carlos Curbelo surfed a national Republican wave to victory over Democrat Joe Garcia in Florida's 26th congressional district.

The state’s southernmost district includes both suburban Kendall and eclectic Key West.

Garcia won the seat two years ago, but Curbelo has returned it to Republican control.

Curbelo says voters are frustrated and disillusioned with government.

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Teacher Evaluations
8:51 pm
Thu October 30, 2014

Broward Schools Want Changes To Evaluations And High School Schedules

Broward schools superintendent Robert Runcie, American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, left, and Broward Teachers Union president Sharon Glickman, right, announced the creation of two task forces to recommend changes to teacher evaluations and high school schedules.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Broward County school and union leaders want to make changes to test-based teacher evaluations and the county's high school schedule.

Florida law requires half of a teacher's evaluation score to be based on whether students miss, meet or exceed expected results on state tests.

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Ballot Suit
4:21 pm
Wed October 29, 2014

Groups Settle Lawsuit Over Broward County Ballots

The card Broward County voters will receive reminding them to vote on every ballot item.
Credit John O'Connor / WLRN

A group challenging a Broward County ballot design they say is confusing has settled a lawsuit with the county’s Supervisor of Elections.

Now, Broward County voters will receive a bright yellow card when they go to cast their votes. The card reminds voters they have a choice on four separate ballot questions on the second page of the ballot, not three.

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The Governor's Race
7:15 am
Mon October 27, 2014

What A Second Term Of Rick Scott Or Charlie Crist Will Mean For Florida Education

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, and current Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, have made education a top issue on the campaign trail.
Credit Michael Laughlin / South Florida Sun Sentinel

Note: This story was originally posted on Oct. 14. The audio is an updated version of the story.

Polls show Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist are polarizing. Voters are as likely to dislike the candidates as they are to approve of them.

So both candidates are talking about schools, colleges and scholarships -- to motivate their supporters.

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School Choice Lawsuits
5:09 pm
Wed October 22, 2014

Court, Public Relations Battle Over Florida Private School Programs Heating Up

The Florida Education Association has amended its challenge of a new school choice law in the Leon County's Second Judicial Circuit.
Credit flguardian2 / Flickr

The legal and public relations battle over Florida's private-school scholarship programs continues, with the statewide teacher's union revising its lawsuit and a school choice group producing a new television ad supporting the programs.

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