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
5:47 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Former Florida Education Commissioner Settles Indiana Ethics Charges

Former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett has settled Indiana ethics charges that he used state computers for campaign reasons.
Credit Tony Bennett / StateImpact Indiana

Former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett will pay a $5,000 fine as part of a proposed deal with Indiana ethics investigators, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by the Associated Press.

Bennett admits using state resources for his 2012 reelection campaign. But Bennett was also cleared of any ethics violations related to changes he sought to Indiana’s school grading formula in 2012.

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StateImpact Florida
6:47 am
Mon July 7, 2014

How A Federal Program Will Help Florida Schools Go Wireless

To prepare for more high-tech lessons, schools are switching to mobile carts with wireless Internet hubs. This one is stocked with iPads.
Credit Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Curtis Lanoue teaches music in a trailer behind Oliver Hoover Elementary School in Miami. His colleagues have interactive smart boards in their classrooms.

Those are like 21st-Century chalk boards that can can plug into the school’s network -- and the Internet.

But Lanoue doesn’t have a smartboard --- or the Internet -- in his portable classroom.

“YouTube might not be the greatest thing to let a kid use unattended," he said, "but for the teacher to use it there’s a ton of resources on there.

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Sports
12:06 pm
Fri July 4, 2014

David Beckham Wants To Talk To Broward County About Stadium

Is David Beckham turning his back on Miami-Dade County? Broward County officials said they expect to talk with Beckham's group about possible stadium sites for a Major League Soccer franchise.
Credit Nathan Forget / Flickr

David Beckham and his partners looking to build a Major League Soccer stadium still want to settle down with Miami-Dade County.

But while the two sides haggle over a site, the Miami Herald reports that Beckham's group may be interested in seeing someone else: Broward County. Broward officials said they expect to talk details with Beckham soon.

Beckham has no shortage of suitors. One Miami-Dade commissioner wants him to consider a Florida International University site. Florida Atlantic University in Palm Beach County has also shown interest in the team.

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Coaching
11:06 am
Mon June 30, 2014

How Better Supervision Might Mean Better Principals In Broward County

Shawn Cerra, principal of J.P. Taravela High School in Coral Springs, with the school's guidance director, Jody Gaver in 2012.
Credit Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

The Wallace Foundation believes the people who supervise principals spend too much time making sure they follow rules and procedures -- and not enough time mentoring them.

So Wallace is launching a $30 million, five-year national experiment to test whether students benefit from principals who get more coaching.

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New Education Laws
5:48 pm
Fri June 27, 2014

New Florida Education Laws Change Veteran Tuition, Grades For Schools

Veterans living in Florida can get in-state tuition at state colleges and universities starting Tuesday.
Credit Kate.Gardiner / Flickr

Veterans will pay less to attend Florida colleges and universities starting Tuesday, one of a handful of laws taking effect at the start of a new budget year.

The Florida GI bill means any veteran living in the Sunshine State only has to pay in-state tuition. That tuition is typically one-third the cost of out-of-state rates.

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Higher Education
4:12 pm
Mon June 23, 2014

Report: South Florida College Grads Earn More

A new Florida report tracks differences in employment and earnings based on the degrees earned by Florida college and university graduates.
Credit 401 (k) 2013 / Flickr

Students awarded bachelor degrees at Florida International University and Florida Atlantic University had the highest median earnings in the state, according to a new report from the Florida Department of Education.

And graduates of Broward College, Florida Keys Community College and Miami Dade College tended to earn more than graduates completing associate degrees at other state colleges.

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Politics
6:41 pm
Thu June 19, 2014

Gov. Rick Scott Says Florida Is Taking Care Of Immigrants

Credit FlickR/Gage Skidmore

  Gov. Rick Scott was in Overtown Thursday to highlight millions in the state budget to help children who were victims of human trafficking.

This year’s state budget will spend $6 million to hire more advocates to help children during court cases. Another $3 million will pay for safe houses and rehabilitation for child victims of trafficking.

Scott also used the opportunity to talk about a new law that allows some undocumented immigrants access to in-state college tuition.

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StateImpact Florida
11:44 am
Thu June 5, 2014

How A Conflict In Florida Policies Means The End Of A Student Help Desk

Students man a computer help desk at Ocoee High School and assist classmates. The school has to end the program because of a state requirement for end-of-course exams.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

A recurring theme in Florida education is that policies intended to address separate issues can and do conflict with each other.

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Testing
11:46 am
Fri May 23, 2014

Third Grade Passing Rates On FCAT Math And Reading Flat

The percentage of Florida third graders passing state reading and math exams was unchanged this year.
Credit shinealight / Flickr

The percentage of Florida third graders passing the state's FCAT math and reading exams did not improve this year -- remaining largely flat for the past three years -- according to initial test results released Friday.

Fifty-seven percent of third graders scored at least a 3, the state's passing score, on the reading test. On the math exam, 58 percent of third graders scored a least a 3.

Writing scores were mixed. A higher percentage of eighth and tenth graders passed the writing exam this year. But fewer fourth graders passed the exam.

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Common Core
9:41 am
Mon May 19, 2014

What Common Core Will Mean For Florida's Science, Social Studies And Other Courses

Monroe Middle School science teacher Andrea Groves works with a student. Many science classes will add more reading and writing assignments as Florida finishes the switch to new K-12 math and language arts standards this fall.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

This story is part of a series from The Hechinger Report and StateImpact Florida looking at how Florida schools are getting ready for Common Core standards. Read — and listen to — the first two stories here and here.

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StateImpact Florida
9:26 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Checking In On Education Bills As Florida Legislature Reaches Halfway Point

The 2014 Florida legislative session has reached the halfway point.
Credit STEVENM_61 / Flickr.com

The 2014 Florida legislative session reached the halfway point last week, so we thought we’d check in on some of the big education bills.

THE BUDGET

The House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott mostly agree on education spending based on their proposed budgets.

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Common Core
6:02 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Florida Watches New York Parents Organize Against Common Core Tests

Parents at a Brooklyn school opt out of state tests earlier this week.
Credit Girlray / Flickr.com

The civil disobedience taking place during New York's statewide testing season may offer a preview of what's to come when Florida unveils new Common Core-tied tests next year.

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StateImpact Florida
1:21 pm
Thu February 13, 2014

Explaining The Proposed Changes To Florida's School Grading Formula

Screenshot from Florida Department of Education proposal.

Originally published on Wed February 12, 2014 12:17 pm

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has recommended changes to the school grading formula.

marsmet tallahassee

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StateImpact Florida
6:20 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Why A Florida Private School Helps Its Staff Stay High Tech

The staff at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy. From left: Nancy Gavrish, Cathy Koos, Brad Meyer and Teresa Schultz.
Credit StateImpact/Flickr

Nancy Gavrish has taught for 36 years, art for the most part, to students at Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy in Melbourne.

But lessons that worked for Gavrish at the beginning of her career weren't as effective later.

"I realized for years that I was not able to keep students’ attention like I used to," she said, "that demonstrations just weren’t doing it anymore."

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StateImpact Florida
4:40 pm
Tue February 4, 2014

Computer Programming Could Count As A Foreign Language

Learning to write computer code could replace foreign language courses.
Credit XKCD / XKCD.COM

Florida students could choose computer programming courses instead of a foreign language as part of a bill to help Florida schools add more technology and digital instruction.

The bill would require state colleges to accept two years of computer programming if the courses applied to a student's major. State universities would have the option of accepting those courses instead of a foreign language.

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