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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Our colleagues at StateImpact Indiana have crunched the numbers and found that 165 schools benefited from changes to the school grading formula former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett made in 2012 while the elected leaders of Hoosier State schools.

The St. Johns County Republican Assembly is the latest GOP group to ask questions — quite literally — about new education standards fully adopted by Florida and 44 other states.

Florida officials made just two major changes to the state formula which determines A-to-F school grades during the first six years of its use — adding a component to measure student test improvement from year-to-year and expanding the number of students included in the formula.

But since 2010 the state has made 16 changes to the formula, including adding new test results, increasing target test scores, factoring in high school graduation rates and accelerated coursework and adding scores for students with disabilities or those learning English.

Educators say the percentage of students meeting state goals on Florida’s math and reading tests will decline after the state switches to new standards known as Common Core.

How bad will it be? Check out the test results released today in New York.

Just 31 percent of New York students in third through eighth grades were proficient on the new math and reading exam. Last year, 65 percent were proficient in math and 55 percent were proficient in English on different exams.

In education circles, Tony Bennett is widely known as a hard-charging Republican reformer associated with Jeb Bush's prescriptions for fixing public schools: charter schools, private school vouchers, tying teacher pay to student test scores and grading schools on a A through F scale.

Bennett resigned from his post as Florida's education chief this morning when a controversy over the last of those things — the school grades — caught up with him.

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