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
6:10 pm
Tue September 16, 2014

Teachers Should Be Apprentices For A Year, Poll Finds

University of Central Florida elementary education students discuss how to incorporate books, maps, magazines and other materials into lesson plans in this 2013 photo.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

A strong majority of Americans surveyed want teachers to have at least one year's practice time in the classroom and pass a board certification before teaching, according to a new national poll.

The Phi Delta Kappa professional teacher's organization and Gallup released a second batch of their annual survey data Tuesday. The poll surveyed 1,001 adults by phone and has a margin of error of 4.6 percent.

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Bright Futures
5:14 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

Lawmaker Says Financial Aid Could Depend On Classes, Not Just Test Scores

Senate Education Chairman John Legg said lawmakers may discuss ways to make state financial aid depend more on classes and less on test scores.
Credit zack Mccarthy / Flickr

A key Senate lawmaker may put less emphasis on test scores to determine which students qualify for state financial aid for college -- possibly including Bright Futures.

Instead, scholarships  and grants would depend more on taking tougher classes in high school.

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StateImpact Florida
8:58 pm
Sun September 14, 2014

New Bright Futures Rules Changing College Plans For Florida Students

Jake Seiler had to put his plans to attend the University of South Florida on hold for a year to earn an associate's degree at Palm Beach State College because he didn't qualify for a Bright Futures scholarship. His dad, Paul, calls changes to Bright Futures an "injustice."
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Most new Palm Beach State College students were going through orientation earlier this month, but Jake Seiler was wrapping up his first three courses.

Despite earning the highest SAT scores of his two siblings -- 1100, on six attempts -- Seiler didn't score high enough this year to earn the Bright Futures Florida Medallion scholarship his older sister got last year.

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Education
1:24 pm
Thu September 11, 2014

Groups Say Black-Owned Businesses Don't Have Fair Share Of Miami-Dade School Contracts

Ron Frazier, CEO of BAC Funding Corporation, a non-profit that lends to minority-owned businesses, and a retired architect, helped lead the Urban League and NAACP review of school district contracts.
Credit John O'Connor / WLRN

The Urban League of Miami and the local NAACP want the Miami-Dade school district to stop work on a $1.2 billion bond project to renovate schools and upgrade their technology.

The groups believe black-owned businesses aren’t getting a fair chance at school construction projects.

A district review of contracts -- a legal requirement if the district wants to allocate contracts based on race or gender -- re-ignited the long-simmering dispute. The district review found black-owned businesses received a disproportionately larger share of district subcontracts.

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The U
6:14 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Donna Shalala Will Step Down As University of Miami President

Donna Shalala is stepping down as president of the University of Miami next year.
Credit JD Lasica / Flickr

University of Miami president Donna Shalala says she’s stepping down next year from the job she’s held since 2001.



Shalala came to the university after leading the federal health agency for eight years and serving as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 She helped build the national stature of the school's medical school and hospital and increased research budgets.

Frank Nero, former head of the Beacon Council, says even big businessmen were impressed by Shalala

.

“It was always a big deal," he says.

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Education
7:03 am
Mon September 8, 2014

New Teacher's Union Leader Promises More Florida Activism

Lily Eskelsen Garcia asks students what they want from the president on a visit to Allapattah Middle School last week.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

At a Spanish restaurant in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood, one of the most powerful women in education, Lily Eskelsen Garcia, pumps up union members by telling them where her career started – the cafeteria.

Lily Eskelsen Garcia is the first Latina elected to lead the nation’s largest union – the National Education Association.

Thursday was her fourth day on the job. She started at 6 a.m. with a tour of the Keys by plane. She followed with visits to Allapattah Middle School and Hialeah High School in Miami-Dade County.

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StateImpact Florida
12:13 pm
Wed September 3, 2014

Miami-Dade Schools Chief Wants To Delay Testing, School Grades

Miami-Dade superintendent Alberto Carvalho, from right, Gov. Rick Scott and Southside Elementary principal Salvatore Schiavone tour the school last month.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said Florida leaders should rethink the scope and purpose of education testing, and give schools more time to prepare for new math and language arts standards.

Carvalho's proposal was published online and emailed to reporters. Carvalho has also been tweeting excerpts since Monday.

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Testing Revolt
2:05 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Lee County School Board Reverses Testing Boycott

Testing opponents quietly show support for speakers at Tuesday's Lee County school board meeting. The board voted 3-2 to reverse its state testing boycott.
Credit Ashley Lopez / WGCU

The Lee County school board has reversed its decision to reject state tests, after board member Mary Fischer changed her mind. Last week the board became the first in Florida to refuse to offer state tests to its students on a 3-2 vote.

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Robot Boat
2:45 am
Mon September 1, 2014

FAU Students Hope Robot Boat Will Conquer The World

Ivan Bertaska, Anderson Lebadd and Edoardo Sarda run their robotic boat through the motions on the Intracoastal Waterway near Dania Beach.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

On the Intracoastal Waterway near Dania Beach, Ivan Bertaska is getting ready to captain his vessel.

Bertaska wants to check the boat’s capabilities by having it speed up and slow down as it carves a wavy wake across the Intracoastal.

“The wave pattern actually gives me a good range of velocities," he says, "so at first we go about two knots and then we get to the top corners where we’re making sharp turns and we’re going about one knot. So I get a good operational range of the vehicle.

"We get a lot of funny looks from boaters.”

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StateImpact Florida
10:14 pm
Thu August 28, 2014

Florida's Teacher Union Says Scholarship Program Is Unconstitutional

The Florida Education Association is challenging the state's private school tax credit scholarship program in court.
Credit Monocle / Flickr

When Florida first approved its private school tax credit scholarship program in 2001, Florida Education Association attorney Ron Meyer said education groups questioned the legality, but no one really objected to helping low-income students get out of low-performing schools.

But then the scholarship program started to grow. Lawmakers approved a law that automatically expanded the program each year. Then earlier this year lawmakers raised the income cap. Now, a family of four earning $62,000 can receive a partial scholarship.

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StateImpact Florida
6:12 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Florida Ready To Challenge Federal Testing Rules For Students Learning English

Gov. Rick Scott says he's giving the U.S. Department of Education 30 days to change their mind about testing requirements for students learning English or the state could head to court.
Credit John O'Connor / Flickr

Gov. Rick Scott is ready to take the federal government to court over testing rules for students learning English.

The U.S. Department of Education says Florida must count those students’ results after one year in school. Scott and Florida educators want to give students two years to learn English.

Scott said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will send a letter asking the U.S. Department of Education to reconsider testing rules for students learning English. If they don't change their mind in 30 days, Scott said the state could go to court.

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Education
12:38 pm
Wed August 27, 2014

Recapping The Results From Tuesday's Education Races

South Florida school boards remain mostly unchanged after Tuesday's elections.
Credit vox_efx / Flickr

South Florida school boards remain unchanged after Tuesday's election, with incumbents winning in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

That includes Ann Murray, whose use of a racial epithet in 2007 was an issue as she sought reelection to Broward County's school board. Murray narrowly defeated Felicia Mychele Brunson. Four other incumbents won reelection as well.

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StateImpact Florida
6:24 pm
Mon August 25, 2014

Opting Out Of Testing Would Come At A Cost For Florida School Districts

Florida school boards are considering saying no to the state on standardized tests.
Credit sboneham / Flickr

UPDATE: Wednesday night, Lee County's school board became the first in Florida to reject required statewide exams. The board voted 3-2.

The consequences of that decision aren't clear yet. The Florida Department of Education said Wednesday that the agency was still weighing its response.

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Education
10:35 am
Thu August 21, 2014

Report: Miami-Dade's Poorest Schools Have District's Least Experienced Teachers

Pablo Ortiz with the Miami-Dade education transformation office says district schools are improving and they are working to make sure the least-experienced teachers aren't concentrated in the district's high-poverty schools.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Students in some of Miami-Dade's lowest-income schools are more likely to have teachers who are new to the profession, who miss more school time and who receive lower evaluation scores, according to a new analysis by the National Council for Teacher Quality.

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StateImpact Florida
2:33 pm
Tue August 19, 2014

Poll Finds Support For Common Core Declining Among Republicans And Teachers

The annual Education Next poll finds support for Common Core is declining among Republicans and teachers. But the poll found people generally support the idea of common education standards.
Credit TheTurthAbout / Flickr

Public support for Common Core math and language arts standards dropped in the past year, and less than half of teachers now say they support the standards, according to an annual back-to-school poll Education Next.

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