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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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#CubaPolicy
10:23 am
Thu December 18, 2014

How Social Media Reacted To The Cuba Announcement

Lazaro Lozano, center, protests against President Obama's decision to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States while at Versailles Restaurant on Calle Ocho in Miami on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014.
Credit Al Diaz / Miami Herald

President Barack Obama shook up a half-century of U.S.-Cuba relations Wednesday, announcing the two countries had agreed to start normalizing relations. Obama wants to set up an embassy in Havana, loosen travel restrictions and allow more trade between the two countries.

South Florida's Cuban-American delegation in Congress criticized the announcement -- calling Obama the "Appeaser-in-Chief." Protesters shouted down the president in Little Havana.

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StateImpact Florida
6:01 pm
Fri December 12, 2014

Why Miami-Dade High School Students Are Teaching Their Classmates About Health

HIP founder Risa Berrin says the program always provides food during after school training sessions because some students don't get regular meals at home.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Abuse. Drugs. Mental health issues.

It’s tough enough for anyone to talk about those problems. It can be even harder for teens facing them for the first time.

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StateImpact Florida
11:56 am
Mon December 8, 2014

Why First-Generation Students Find It Tougher To Earn A College Degree

Cecilia, one of the students featured in "First Generation," will be in Miami for a screening Tuesday. This is a still from the documentary.
Credit Courtesy of "First Generation."

Students who are the first in their family to attend college often have a more difficult time finishing their degree.

Research shows those students know less about how to get into and pay for college. They're also less likely to take tough high school courses needed to prepare for college.

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State Testing
10:12 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Your Guide To The Florida Standards Assessments

This reading test question asks students to drag items which correctly answer the question into the box.
Credit Screen shot / Florida Department of Education

We're taking this week to help parents and students understand the new Florida Standards Assessments, which students will take for the first time beginning in March.

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StateImpact Florida
12:08 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Meet Florida's New Statewide Test

Credit freedigitalphotos.net

This spring, Florida students will take a brand new test tied to the state’s new math, reading and writing standards.

This is the test that replaces the FCAT. It's known as the Florida Standards Assessment, and it’ll be online.

What’s on the test won’t be the only thing different about the exam. Students will also find new types of questions.

We gathered your questions about the new exam from our Public Insight Network. Here’s what you you wanted to know -- and what it’ll mean for students and schools.

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StateImpact Florida
11:17 pm
Sun November 16, 2014

Florida Teachers Consider 'Civil Disobedience' To Say No To Testing

Miramar High School teacher David Ross says testing has taken more and more time away from teaching. He refused to administer an FCAT make-up exam in protest.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

In September, Alachua County kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles refused to give a state reading test.

She told the parents of her students it was an act of civil disobedience.  The Florida Department of Education later suspended the exam for this year.

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Education
12:07 pm
Thu November 13, 2014

Three Questions With State Sen. John Legg About His Technology Summit

State Sen. John Legg is gathering experts from schools, the technology industry, business and universities to talk about helping Florida schools integrate more technology.
Credit jaredearle / Flickr

Today in Tampa, lawmakers, superintendents, businesspeople and state university staff will gather to talk about using technology in Florida classrooms. The summit was the idea of Senate Education chairman John Legg, R-Trinity. We asked him what he wanted to accomplish:

You are gathering some school and education leaders together… to talk about school technology. Why are you doing this and what do you hope to learn?

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StateImpact Florida
12:19 pm
Wed November 12, 2014

"Ballin' On A Budget": How A Miami Teacher Keeps His Library Stocked

Some of the books in Daniel Dickey's classroom library.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern High School teacher Daniel Dickey says there's no silver bullet or secret book which will spark a student's interest in reading.

Instead, he says he asks questions and listens.

"I sit down with that student and really figure out what is it that drives you?" Dickey says. "Why do you come to school? Why are you here every day?"

He asks them about their plans, their dreams.

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