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
10:59 pm
Sun March 29, 2015

Despite Problems, Experts Say Computerized Testing Is The Answer For Florida Schools

Despite problems with Florida's new exam, testing experts say the state's emphasis on digital lessons mean schools should use computerized testing.
Credit wcsryanhartley / Flickr

Testing experts say so far Florida's problems with its new statewide exam, the Florida Standards Assessments, are likely not serious enough for the state to consider throwing out this year’s test scores.

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#MB100
12:42 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Which One Is Better: Miami Or Miami Beach?

Credit Photo on left by Wyn Van Devanter, right by Katie O'Connor / Flickr (https://flic.kr/p/5idr27)

Miami Beach is celebrating its centennial on Thursday with a giant concert with performances by Gloria Estefan, Andrea Bocelli and Flo Rida.

And while non-South Floridians and some sports anchors might not realize there's a difference between Miami and Miami Beach, people who live in each city hold a lot of pride for their hometowns. And sometimes, it leads to rivalry.

So my colleague John O'Connor and I each took up the cause for our side of the causeway. Take a listen for what lovers of each city had to say:

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Education
7:53 pm
Wed March 25, 2015

Senate Committee Wants To Suspend Testing Penalties For Third Graders

Florida law requires 3rd graders with the lowest scores on state tests to be held back. But a Senate committee wants to suspend that penalty this year.
Credit departmentofed / Flickr

Nearly one in five Florida third graders were at risk of being held back because of low scores on the state reading test last year.

But this year the state might not hold back any third graders. That’s because a Senate committee voted to suspend those penalties this year.

The bill requires an outside group to make sure the state test results are statistically valid.

Sen. David Simmons says he wants to make sure schools and the state can depend on Florida Standards Assessments results before making big decisions using those results.

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School Funding
10:10 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Amendment Would Give Charter Schools A Share Of School Construction Money

Sen. Don Gaetz has filed an amendment which would force school districts to share local construction money with charter schools.
Credit JD Hancock / Flickr

School districts would have to share local school construction and maintenance money with charter schools, according to an amendment filed by an influential state senator.

Sen. Don Gaetz, former Senate president, filed the amendment Tuesday. The amendment would require half of the money raised by an optional local property tax to be split between charter and traditional schools on a per-student basis.

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StateImpact Florida
9:43 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Testing, School Choice, Phys. Ed.: A Town Hall Conversation About Florida Education

Rashon and Mr. Brown, two people featured in the documentary "180 Days: Hartsville." Florida public media stations will air the movie this month. Check local listings.
Credit Clevis Harrison / PBS

This week, PBS is launching a new documentary series, "180 Days."

One of the films focuses on Hartsville, South Carolina, a rural and poor district which has managed to become one of the highest rated school districts, according to South Carolina's ranking.

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Miami-Dade Politics
3:06 pm
Mon March 9, 2015

Raquel Regalado Will Challenge Miami-Dade County Mayor

Miami-Dade school board member Raquel Regalado filed paperwork to run for Miami-Dade County mayor Monday.
Credit John O'Connor / WLRN

Miami-Dade school board member Raquel Regalado says she is running for Miami-Dade County mayor.

The 40-year-old Regalado filed the paperwork on Monday. She’ll challenge incumbent Carlos Gimenez, who has held the office since 2011.

Regalado says Gimenez is out of touch with county voters.

“I think that a lot of the decisions that are being made at the county have more to do with who comes to visit the mayor, and what ideas they have; what lobbyists bring what proposals," she says.

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StateImpact Florida
5:50 pm
Sun March 8, 2015

Five Questions About Florida's Testing Problems

Florida students had trouble connecting to the state's new online writing exam on Monday and Tuesday. The problems seemed to be fixed by Wednesday afternoon.
Credit stanfordedtech / Flickr

Last week, dozens of Florida school districts had to postpone state testing because of problems with the new Florida Standards Assessments.

Students couldn’t log in to the online writing exam -- and some who did were booted out and temporarily lost their answers.

The problems seem to have been resolved Thursday. By Friday, more than half of students scheduled to take the online writing exam had finished.

Here's five questions about what happened and what's next.

What happened?

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The Florida Standards Assessments
6:51 pm
Tue March 3, 2015

School Districts Report Second Day Of Testing Problems

Miami-Dade Superintendent Alberto Carvalho at a February press conference. He's suspending testing in Miami-Dade schools.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

For the second day in a row, some Florida school districts decided to suspend required testing because of computer problems.

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Testing
11:16 am
Tue March 3, 2015

Miami-Dade Schools Suspending New State Test

School districts around the state report students had trouble logging in or experienced slow loading time with Florida's new online writing exam.
Credit Ann Douglas / Flickr

Miami-Dade schools are suspending online state testing for eighth through 10th graders after many students were unable to log on to Florida's new writing test Monday.

School districts across the state reported problems with the exam. And the test ran slowly for many who did manage to sign on.

Miami-Dade is suspending online testing for students who have yet to complete the writing test until the state can prove the new online system is running smoothly

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StateImpact Florida
6:34 pm
Fri February 27, 2015

Ready Or Not, Students, The New Florida Exam Is Here

The new Florida Standards Assessments begin today. Most students will take the exam online, though some students will take a paper and pencil version of the writing exam.
Credit Extra Ketchup

At Miami's iPrep Academy, getting ready for the state's new standardized test includes rapping.

Two students are recording the daily announcements, telling classmates when and where they need to be starting today.

"Monday is ninth graders, with last name A to G," one student raps, in a rhyme that's no threat to Miami's Rick Ross.



"On Tuesday, it’s ninth graders with last name H through Z," his partner continues.

"All testing is in room 2 - 0 - 4!" they conclude together, Beastie Boys-style.

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Unemployment
4:27 pm
Tue February 24, 2015

Job Market Improving For Recent College Grads, But Pay Is Not

Recent college graduates are more likely to find work since the end of the Great Recession, but pay is not yet increasing.
Credit dsb nola / Flickr

New college graduates are finding it easier to land their first jobs -- and unemployment rates are dropping for most degree holders.

But paychecks are still getting smaller for most recent grads, according to a study from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

The study shows that unemployment was down for nearly every category of majors in 2012, the only exception being communications and journalism.

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Testing
6:59 pm
Wed February 18, 2015

Florida Education Commissioner Recommends Eliminating Some Tests

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart.
Credit Florida Department of Education / Flickr

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has recommended eliminating a high school exam, making another optional and asking state lawmakers and local school districts to cut back on the amount of testing.

Stewart's recommendations are the conclusion of a statewide review of standardized testing requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

"There is, without a doubt, an excess of testing in Florida schools," Stewart said in a statement, saying she'll work with Scott, lawmakers and school districts to "strike the appropriate balance between accountability and instruction."

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StateImpact Florida
2:00 am
Mon February 16, 2015

Why Elementary Math Lessons Are Changing In Florida Schools

Frances S. Tucker fifth grade math teacher Yaliesperanza Salazar leads her class through an exercise to group data on a line graph.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

At dinner tables across Florida, parents and their elementary school children are trying to solve a math problem: What’s going on with my kid’s homework?

Florida is one of dozens of states that has switched to new math standards based on Common Core. The standards outline what students should know in every grade.

Experts say it means big changes to how math is taught. More focus on understanding concepts and solving problems multiple ways. Less memorization of formulas and grinding out worksheets full of similar problems.

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Education
5:59 pm
Wed February 11, 2015

Proposed Testing-Time Limit Might Not Reduce Testing Time

Florida lawmakers want to limit the amount of time students spend testing.
Credit StephenMitchell / Flickr

A proposal to limit students to 45 hours of testing a year is unlikely to reduce the amount of time spent on exams, according to a survey of Florida's largest school districts.

Districts say they don't currently track the time individual students spend on testing.

Calculating the number is complicated. The amount of testing varies by a student's grade, the classes he or she is taking and other factors, such as whether the student is learning English or receives extra time to accommodate a disability.

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Jeb
6:01 pm
Tue February 10, 2015

Jeb Bush Defends Education Record At Tallahassee Summit

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush answered questions at a Tallahassee education summit Tuesday.
Credit Miami Herald

Former Gov. Jeb Bush defended his record on education at a Tallahassee education summit Tuesday, taking on testing, unions and school choice.

But Bush didn't mention Common Core -- the politically caustic multi-state math and language arts standards for which he has been a chief cheerleader. Bush is a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, and many conservatives worry the standards will mean a loss of local control over what's taught in schools.

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