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
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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Education
5:16 pm
Mon August 18, 2014

New Food Truck, New Magnet For South Florida Students Kicking Off The New School Year

iTech Students had their choice of a roasted pork sandwich or chicken tacos from Miami-Dade schools' food truck.
John O'Connor StateImpact Florida/WLRN

South Florida districts raised the curtain on a new school year Monday.

And that meant showing off two new programs in Miami-Dade schools: a new food truck and the iTech magnet program at Thomas A. Edison Educational Center, which was formerly Little Haiti's Edison Middle.

Miami-Dade is finishing a billion-dollar renovation of schools, and the food truck will serve meals at campuses when the cafeterias are closed.

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StateImpact Florida
6:29 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Florida School Districts Preparing For Central American Immigrants

More than 120 Honduran students have enrolled in Miami Jackson Senior High School the past two years. Schools across Florida are expecting thousands of immigrants from Central America -- many traveling without their parents -- this school year.

Jessica Gaspar was born in the U.S. and grew up speaking English at school -- but at home, she speaks Q'anjob'al.

That’s the Mayan language spoken by her Guatemalan parents.

She said she and her brother struggled to practice their English once the school day ended. It's why Gaspar volunteers at a community center on a back street lined with body shops in Lake Worth.

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Education
7:11 pm
Tue August 12, 2014

Broward County Schools Release $900 Million Maintenance Wish List

Credit 401(K) 2012/Flickr

  Broward County school leaders have unveiled a $900 million list of projects they want to complete over the next five years.

That includes turning portable rooms housed in mobile trailers into permanent classrooms, replacing aging air-conditioning systems and upgrading art, music and athletics facilities.

Broward County schools superintendent Robert Runcie said the district scrutinized every project on its wish list and chose those that were most important.

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StateImpact Florida
11:36 pm
Sun August 10, 2014

Florida's Newest University Will Try To Bring MIT Culture Here

A model of the future campus of Florida Polytechnic University.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

This coming Saturday marks the grand opening for Florida's 12th state university. Florida Polytechnic University in Polk County will offer tuition-free education focused on science, technology, engineering and math -- STEM -- to its inaugural class of about 550 students. They'll start on August 25.

President Randy Avent sat down with Robin Sussingham from WUSF in Tampa to talk about his vision for the new university.

Here's an edited version of their conversation.

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Politics
5:59 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

"We Lurch": Activist Bob Moses On The Current Fight For Voting Rights

Civil Right activist and educator Bob Moses. Moses says the federal government should do more to ensure Americans' right to vote.
Credit miller_center / Flickr

Monday is the first day of early voting for this year’s primary elections.

In Florida, voting -- early or otherwise -- has been disputed in various ways over past decade.

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StateImpact Florida
4:56 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

Where Should Computer Programming Fit Into Florida's School Requirements?

Students at the CodeNow workshop in Miami learned to program simple games, such as asking users to quickly match words and colors.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Lots of people think teaching students computer programming is a good idea. But where coding fits in schools is a difficult question.

Is it a science? A language? Career training?

Florida lawmakers proposed, but did not approve, letting students substitute coding for foreign language or physical education courses required for a high school diploma. The idea is also tucked into the education plan of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.

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