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.

Ways To Connect

Clevis Harrison / PBS

This week, PBS is launching a new documentary series, "180 Days."

One of the films focuses on Hartsville, South Carolina, a rural and poor district which has managed to become one of the highest rated school districts, according to South Carolina's ranking.

John O'Connor / WLRN

Miami-Dade school board member Raquel Regalado says she is running for Miami-Dade County mayor.

The 40-year-old Regalado filed the paperwork on Monday. She’ll challenge incumbent Carlos Gimenez, who has held the office since 2011.

Regalado says Gimenez is out of touch with county voters.

“I think that a lot of the decisions that are being made at the county have more to do with who comes to visit the mayor, and what ideas they have; what lobbyists bring what proposals," she says.

stanfordedtech / Flickr

Last week, dozens of Florida school districts had to postpone state testing because of problems with the new Florida Standards Assessments.

Students couldn’t log in to the online writing exam -- and some who did were booted out and temporarily lost their answers.

The problems seem to have been resolved Thursday. By Friday, more than half of students scheduled to take the online writing exam had finished.

Here's five questions about what happened and what's next.

What happened?

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

For the second day in a row, some Florida school districts decided to suspend required testing because of computer problems.

Ann Douglas / Flickr

Miami-Dade schools are suspending online state testing for eighth through 10th graders after many students were unable to log on to Florida's new writing test Monday.

School districts across the state reported problems with the exam. And the test ran slowly for many who did manage to sign on.

Miami-Dade is suspending online testing for students who have yet to complete the writing test until the state can prove the new online system is running smoothly

Extra Ketchup

At Miami's iPrep Academy, getting ready for the state's new standardized test includes rapping.

Two students are recording the daily announcements, telling classmates when and where they need to be starting today.

"Monday is ninth graders, with last name A to G," one student raps, in a rhyme that's no threat to Miami's Rick Ross.



"On Tuesday, it’s ninth graders with last name H through Z," his partner continues.

"All testing is in room 2 - 0 - 4!" they conclude together, Beastie Boys-style.

dsb nola / Flickr

New college graduates are finding it easier to land their first jobs -- and unemployment rates are dropping for most degree holders.

But paychecks are still getting smaller for most recent grads, according to a study from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce.

The study shows that unemployment was down for nearly every category of majors in 2012, the only exception being communications and journalism.

Florida Department of Education / Flickr

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart has recommended eliminating a high school exam, making another optional and asking state lawmakers and local school districts to cut back on the amount of testing.

Stewart's recommendations are the conclusion of a statewide review of standardized testing requested by Gov. Rick Scott.

"There is, without a doubt, an excess of testing in Florida schools," Stewart said in a statement, saying she'll work with Scott, lawmakers and school districts to "strike the appropriate balance between accountability and instruction."

John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

At dinner tables across Florida, parents and their elementary school children are trying to solve a math problem: What’s going on with my kid’s homework?

Florida is one of dozens of states that has switched to new math standards based on Common Core. The standards outline what students should know in every grade.

Experts say it means big changes to how math is taught. More focus on understanding concepts and solving problems multiple ways. Less memorization of formulas and grinding out worksheets full of similar problems.

StephenMitchell / Flickr

A proposal to limit students to 45 hours of testing a year is unlikely to reduce the amount of time spent on exams, according to a survey of Florida's largest school districts.

Districts say they don't currently track the time individual students spend on testing.

Calculating the number is complicated. The amount of testing varies by a student's grade, the classes he or she is taking and other factors, such as whether the student is learning English or receives extra time to accommodate a disability.

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