John O'Connor


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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John O'Connor / WLRN

Students at two Miami elementary schools got a lesson in singing together from choral group Seraphic Fire Friday.

The group is based in Miami but performs all over the country. It is providing music classes in local schools this year.

Most students at North Miami’s Natural Bridge Elementary had never sung an Israeli folk song before. Some are just learning English.

But Seraphic Fire singer James Bass had more than 100 students belting out the words to “Zum Gali Gali.”

NADA / Flickr

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush said he would scrap the national health insurance law known as Obamacare.

Bush outlined his plan to replace it during a speech in New Hampshire Tuesday.

Bush wants a system that protects people from worst-case scenarios rather than comprehensive coverage that includes services they may not want. He said insurance shouldn’t cover everything.

John O'Connor / WLRN

In Brigette Kinney’s design class at Ada Merritt K-8 center in Miami, one of the key concepts is editing and revising ideas after getting feedback.

Her 8th graders create role-playing games based on books they read. Then they adjust the games  after watching their classmates play.

Kinney hopes Florida lawmakers will be as open to change as her students.

“I feel that legislators are out of touch with what it means to be a good teacher,” she said.

John O'Connor / WLRN

One day after a shooter killed nine people and himself at an Oregon community college, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she’ll seek tougher gun laws if she’s elected.

Clinton made the pledge to about 1,000 people at a Friday campaign rally at Broward College’s Davie campus. Clinton said people shouldn’t be afraid to attend class or see a movie.

“I am going to fight for new, effective gun control measures,” she said

The pledge drew the biggest response from the crowd. Clinton said that changing gun laws is a “political mountain.”

Florida school districts received the first round of test results from the Florida Standards Assessments this week.

The results show what percentage of students in each district scored within each quartile of all Florida students taking the exams. Parents can expect more detailed scores for their students in October.

John O'Connor / WLRN

Miami teacher Brigette Kinney said she doesn’t always hear about school news when classes are out for the summer.

So Kinney missed the word that state legislators set aside $44 million for bonuses based on SAT and ACT scores during a special summer budget session. Teachers who scored in the top 20 percent the year they took the exam and earned a “highly effective” teacher evaluation are eligible.

But Kinney said she didn’t learn about the bonuses until she returned to school in August -- and that may have been too late.

John O'Connor / WLRN

You might be forgiven for mistaking Miami Beach High School’s auditorium for the Fillmore Thursday.

Students waved lit cellphones above their heads.

They sang along with “whoa-oh-oh” choruses.

But when the concert ended,  they got a lesson in what some have dubbed nature’s most powerful force.

“It’s called compounding interest," says Gooding, the guitarist who uses only the one name professionally and is lead singer of a band by the same name (though in all caps). "Raise your hand if you know what compounding interest is? I won’t make you say it. Awesome.”

stanfordedtech / Flickr

Last week the international  Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development released the results of a global study looking at the effect of technology on 15-year-olds' test scores.

The group oversees one of the most important international exams, so its research matters.

John O'Connor / WLRN

Pope Francis’ visit to Cuba and the United States is being closely watched by students at a school that once moved from Cuba to South Florida.

Hundreds of Belen Jesuit Preparatory students gathered before classes Friday morning to send prayers to Pope Francis before his arrival in Cuba.

The first Latin American pope will celebrate Mass in three Cuban cities before continuing on to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia.

Carl Juste / Miami Herald

With fresh haircuts and the knowledge lunch would be waiting on the bus when they arrived, about two dozen Miami Northwestern High School students headed to Washington, D.C. early Thursday morning.

This is an annual trip put together by an organization called 5000 Role Models of Excellence. The group arranges service projects for students who join the club and helps them find mentors.

They’ll be meeting with Civil Rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, attending the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual conference and visiting the White House.