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.

Pages

Measles
3:19 pm
Wed February 4, 2015

Miami-Dade Superintendent: Get Your Shots (Even Flu)

Superintedent Alberto Carvalho says he's concerned about measles cases spreading across the country and is tracking vaccination rates.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami-Dade County school leaders say they are concerned about a measles outbreak spreading across the country, and they urge parents to vaccinate their children.

Superintendent Alberto Carvalho says vaccinations work, and the district is tracking whether students get their required shots. Carvalho says 98 percent of Miami-Dade students have been vaccinated or are getting the shots now.

Read more
StateImpact Florida
5:26 pm
Sun February 1, 2015

Why Paperwork Is Worth Millions To Florida College Students

Miami Beach Senior High college adviser Maria Sahwell helps Anahi Hurtado, left, and her mother fill out the FAFSA.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

It’s a midweek school night at Miami Beach Senior High School.

Students, their parents and siblings -- roughly 80 people in all -- are waiting in the school’s library to get on a computer and answer a lot of questions.

Miami Beach Senior High college adviser Maria Sahwell and experienced counselors will walk families through filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

Read more
Testing
8:58 pm
Tue January 27, 2015

Opting Out Of State Tests Isn't An Option, Education Commissioner Tells Lawmakers

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told lawmakers that nothing in state law allows students to refuse state-required exams.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says students cannot skip state-required tests, and teachers and schools can be punished for refusing to administer required exams.

Stewart’s letter is a response to questions from senators as they prepare for the upcoming legislative session. Senators wanted to know if students could opt out of state-required exams and how doing so might affect their progress in school.

Read more
Education
9:31 pm
Mon January 26, 2015

Study: Florida Schools Should End Corporal Punishment

A paddle used to spank students at a Florida school.
Credit Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida
Read more
StateImpact Florida
1:31 am
Mon January 26, 2015

New Book Looks At The History And Future Of Testing In U.S. Schools

Anya Kamenetz is an education reporter for NPR and author of a new book on testing in U.S. schools.
Credit Anya Kamenetz

Lots of people think there’s too much testing going on in schools right now. It’s one of the most contentious issues in education.

Lawmakers want to scale back the amount of time Florida students spend taking tests.

But at the same time, Florida is rolling out a new test tied to new math and language arts standards -- known as Common Core.

NPR education reporter Anya Kamenetz researched the history and use of standardized exams for her book, “The Test.”

Read an edited version of our interview with Kamenetz below.

Read more
Finances
5:12 pm
Fri January 16, 2015

State Lawmakers Want To Add Financial Education

Credit Miran_Rijavec / Flickr

Lawmakers want Florida students to be smarter about their money.

They’ve introduced a bill to make a financial literacy course a high school graduation requirement.

Students would have to take lessons on taxes, compound interest, insurance, and how to weigh the cost and benefits of decisions.

The bill was introduced by Fort Myers Republican Representative Heather Fitzenhagen and Miami GOP Representative Manny Diaz.

The bill says the Florida Department of Education would choose a non-profit group to create the lessons.

Read more
STEM
5:33 pm
Thu January 15, 2015

Amateur Radio Club Connects Miami Students With Space Station

A student asks a question of European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoferretti while Dade Radio Club of Miami president Miguel Garate looks on.
Credit John O'Connor / WLRN

At first, the kids in the auditorium at Richmond Heights Middle School weren’t sure a they'd hear a voice above the ear-burning static.

Dade Radio Club of Miami president Miguel Garate kept signaling the space station.  

“NA1SS, NA1SS, this is Richmond Heights. Over,” Garate said repeatedly, trying to hail the space station.

They had just minutes before astronaut Samantha Cristoferretti would be out of range.

A voice cut through the white noise.

“This is November Alpha One, I-S-S. I read you three by five,” Cristoferretti said.

Read more
StateImpact Florida
5:42 pm
Mon January 12, 2015

Fewer And Better: How Lawmakers Want To Change State Testing

Most students will take the Florida Standards Assessments online.
Credit Extra Ketchup

When lawmakers return to Tallahassee in March for the annual legislative session, they have a lot of questions they need to answer about public school testing.

Senators laid out their concerns about the state testing system last week at a series of meetings.

They don’t know how many tests the state requires or how long it takes to complete those exams.

They don’t know how much the state and school districts spend on testing.

And they’re not convinced they can depend on all the results of those exams.

Read more
The Cost of College
5:27 pm
Fri January 9, 2015

South Florida College Leaders Support President's Free College Plan

The president of Broward College supports President Barack Obama's proposal to offer students two years of college tuition-free.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

The leaders of two of the nation’s largest community colleges say they support President Barack Obama's proposal to give students two years of college for free.

Obama proposed the idea in Tennessee Friday.

In a written statement, Broward College president J. David Armstrong says the proposal could mean more training for teachers, nurses, paramedics, firefighters and police. That's good for the economy, he says.

Read more
Feature
1:09 am
Fri January 9, 2015

LISTEN: Florida's First 15 Hours Of Same-Sex Marriage

Aaron Huntsman and William Lee Jones, the first same sex couple to be wed in Key West, show off their wedding bands.
Credit Mark Hedden / WLRN

Just after midnight on Tuesday morning, gay marriage became legal in Florida. But the first marriages started in Miami-Dade County about twelve hours earlier.

It was about 11:30 in the morning. Judge Sarah Zabel held a hearing and decided there was no need to wait. She lifted the stay on her ruling declaring Florida's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

And gay couples could start getting married right away.

Our reporter John O'Connor was at the courthouse. And we had people at courthouses in Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, too.

Read more
School Rankings
12:23 pm
Thu January 8, 2015

Florida Comes In 28th On State Education System Rankings

Florida earned a C grade on this year's Education Week state rankings, coming in 28th overall.
Credit lwr / Flickr

Florida's earned a C grade and ranked 28th overall on this year's Education Week Quality Counts ratings.

Education Week gave the state strong scores for equity in student achievement. Test results show minority students generally perform better in Florida than other states, and the gap between white and minority students scores is smaller in Florida than other states.

Read more
Florida Legislature
5:46 pm
Wed January 7, 2015

Florida Senators Raise Testing Questions At Budget Hearing

Lawmakers seem ready to reconsider the amount and scope of required testing.

State Senator Bill Montford, leader of the Florida's school superintendents association, said he's not sure schools will have the technology in place for new online exams this spring.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart told the Senate Education Appropriations committee that Florida's new statewide tests, the Florida Standards Assessments, are on track for use beginning in March. The tests are tied to new Common Core-based math, reading and writing standards.

Read more
News
10:34 am
Tue January 6, 2015

Miami-Dade Couple Getting Marriage License: "The Mundane Becomes Magical"

Deborah Shure and Aymarah Robles show the ticket that holds their place in line for a marriage license.
Credit John O'Connor / WRLN

The counter on the wall of Miami-Dade County's marriage license office says 59. Deborah Shure and Aymarah Robles hold number 60.

Robles says they’ve been waiting 15 years to be able to marry each other. Minutes before, a Miami-Dade judge said same-sex couples could get marriage licenses.

“And I’m still crying and I don’t think it’s going to stop today," Robles says.

Shure and Robles ducked out after the verdict to grab an early spot in line. Dozens of couples followed.

About an hour later, their wait was over.

Read more
Obituary
3:31 pm
Wed December 24, 2014

Robert McCabe, Who Helped Expand Miami Dade College, Dies At 86

A MIAMI INSTITUTION: Robert H. McCabe, who was president of Miami Dade College from 1980 to 1995 and helped build the school’s national reputation, celebrated with wife, historian Arva Moore Parks, during the March 1997 dedication ceremonies for a campus building named in his honor, Robert H. McCabe Hall and the Betty and Alvah Chapman Conference Center.
Credit Al Diaz / Miami Herald

During the time Robert McCabe was president of Miami Dade College, no school in the country awarded as many associate of arts degrees.

McCabe, 86, died of cancer Tuesday night.

His widow, Arva Moore Parks, says her husband had a simple philosophy for education.

“That everybody could achieve if you help them along," she said. "He really, truly believed that – and he proved it.”

Read more
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.

Read more

Pages