John O'Connor

Reporter, StateImpact Florida

John O’Connor is a reporter for StateImpact Florida, a project of WUSF, WLRN, WJCT and NPR 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.


StateImpact Florida
6:58 am
Mon July 21, 2014

What We Learned This Year Watching Schools Prepare For Florida’s New Standards

Darlene Paul, principal of West Defuniak Elementary, speaks to a student during a visit to a third-grade classroom. Paul says she has been impressed with the academic success of young students who have been taught only using the new Florida Standards.
Credit Jackie Mader / The Hechinger Report

For the past year The Hechinger Report and StateImpact Florida have taken you into two schools to hear what preparations for Florida’s new Common Core-based standards sound like. The standards outline what students should know in math and language arts. When classes start this fall every grade in every Florida public school will use them. But are schools ready?

The Hechinger Report’s Jackie Mader and StateImpact Florida’s John O’Connor tell us what they’ve learned.

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3:37 pm
Thu July 10, 2014

Former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett Reaches Ethics Deal

Former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett
Credit Gina Jordan/StateImpact Florida

Former Florida Education Commissioner Tony Bennett will pay a $5,000 fine as part of a proposed deal with Indiana ethics investigators, according to a copy of the agreement obtained by the Associated Press.

Bennett admits using state resources for his 2012 reelection campaign. But Bennett was also cleared of any ethics violations related to changes he sought to Indiana’s school grading formula in 2012.

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StateImpact Florida
7:25 am
Mon July 7, 2014

How A Federal Program Will Help Florida Schools Go Wireless

To handle new online testing and high-tech lessons, many school district are using mobile carts equipped with Wi-Fi hotspots. This one is loaded with iPads.
Credit Elle Moxley / StateImpact Indiana

Curtis Lanoue teaches music in a trailer behind Oliver Hoover Elementary School in Miami. His colleagues have interactive smart boards in their classrooms.

Those are like 21st-Century chalk boards that can can plug into the school’s network — and the Internet.

But Lanoue doesn’t have a smartboard — or the Internet — in his portable classroom.

“YouTube might not be the greatest thing to let a kid use unattended,” he said, “but for the teacher to use it there’s a ton of resources on there.

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StateImpact Florida
2:00 am
Mon June 30, 2014

How Better Supervision Might Mean Better Principals In Broward County

Shawn Cerra, principal of J.P. Taravela High School in Coral Springs, with the school's guidance director, Jody Gaver in 2012.
Credit Sarah Gonzalez / StateImpact Florida

A national foundation thinks school principals have more to learn.

The Wallace Foundation believes that the people who supervise principals spend too much time making sure they follow rules and procedures -- and not enough time mentoring them.

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StateImpact Florida
4:55 am
Mon June 16, 2014

Summer Boot Camp Might Solve A Ninth Grade Algebra Problem

Dywayne Hinds, Pinellas County schools director of middle school education, is helping target incoming ninth graders for a summer Algebra 1 boot camp.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

About half of Florida ninth graders failed the state's Algebra 1 exam on their first attempt last year.

The class -- and passing the exam -- are a high school graduation requirement.

We'll find out today if those numbers improved when the Florida Department of Education releases this year's end-of-course results.

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StateImpact Florida
10:25 am
Mon June 2, 2014

New Online Exams Will Also Test School Districts’ Technology

Thomas McNabb points out the changes made to an Ocoee High School science classroom, part of a $14 million program at seven schools to test the best ways to upgrade school technology.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Ocoee High School just west of Orlando opened less than a decade ago. But technology-wise, the 2,300-student school is already obsolete.

Ocoee is part of $14 million project to outfit seven Orange County schools with fast, wireless Internet and new classroom technology.

The first step was ripping out and replacing miles of fiber optic cable and adding devices teachers could use with their lessons.

Orange County schools’ infrastructure director Thomas McNabb walked through a science classroom, pointing out the changes.

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StateImpact Florida
11:07 am
Wed May 21, 2014

Hackers Stole Employee Data From Florida’s New Testing Company

Hackers stole unencrypted Social Security numbers and credit card info for current and former American Institutes of Research employees.
Credit Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Hackers stole employee data earlier this month from the American Institutes for Research, the company chosen to produce Florida’s next standardized test.

No student information was stolen, according to Education Week. But, the hackers got Social Security numbers and credit card information for about 6,500 current and former employees.

From the story:

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StateImpact Florida
10:05 am
Mon May 19, 2014

What Common Core Will Mean For Science, Social Studies And Other Classes

Monroe Middle School science teacher Andrea Groves works with a student. Many science classes will add more reading and writing assignments as Florida finishes the switch to new K-12 math and language arts standards this fall.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

This story is part of a series from The Hechinger Report and StateImpact Florida looking at how Florida schools are getting ready for Common Core standards. Read — and listen to — the first two stories here and here.

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StateImpact Florida
12:02 pm
Thu May 15, 2014

Explaining The Research On Single-Gender Classes

Students at the all-girls Ferrell Preparatory Academy in Tampa. Ariana Jerome, Shawna Kent, Elena Postlewait and Destiny Jackson all say they prefer their all-girls school to the co-ed schools they previously attended.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging single-gender schools and classes in Hillsborough County. The ACLU claims the programs reinforce gender stereotypes and that the evidence supporting single-gender schooling is based on “junk science.”

So what does the science say? The results are mixed, as is often the case in education research.

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StateImpact Florida
9:45 am
Mon May 5, 2014

Why Educators Are Using Social Media To Explain What #TeachingIs

Jaraux Washington teaches science at Tampa's Roland Park K-8 Magnet School.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Jaraux Washington is a science teacher at Tampa's Roland Park K-8 Magnet School for International Studies. So it's not surprising she turns to biology for a metaphor to describe teaching.

"Especially in seventh grade you understand that this is a process," she says, "and sometimes you're the planter and sometime you're the waterer and sometime you get to see the harvest."

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StateImpact Florida
1:39 pm
Mon April 28, 2014

Explaining A $50 Million Jacksonville Effort To Recruit And Retain Top Teachers

Teach for America teachers Samantha Sanacore, Eric Sweeney and Denali Lander.
Credit Alicia Duplessis Jasmin / Flickr

Jacksonville-area businesses and nonprofits are trying to raise $50 million to help recruit and retain top teachers for three dozen of the district's most challenged schools.

The effort, known as Quality Education for All, is intended to help improve schools that have been the center of education-related lawsuits for decades.

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StateImpact Florida
10:22 am
Mon April 21, 2014

Why Florida Parents Want To Opt Their Kids Out Of State Tests

Gov. Rick Scott greets students at West Tampa's Graham Elementary School last week.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Last week Gov. Rick Scott delivered an $8.5 million check to Hillsborough County schools earning good marks on the state’s grading formula.

Those grades depend a lot on student FCAT scores. So Hillsborough Superintendent MaryEllen Elia took a moment pump up students at West Tampa’s Graham Elementary School before this week's testing.

"Next week you’re going to have an opportunity to do great again, right?" Elia asked.

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StateImpact Florida
4:13 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Florida Polytechnic University Selects First President

Randy Avent, left, shakes hands with Florida Polytechnic Board of Trustees Chair Rob Gidel.
Credit Courtesy of Florida Polytechnic

Randy Avent has a career of turning research into new defense, computer science and life science projects.

Florida Polytechnic's Board of Trustees said they want Avent to inspire future entrepreneurs at the Polk County campus.

Avent was the board's unanimous choice for the university's first president.

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StateImpact Florida
9:43 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Checking In On Education Bills As Florida Legislature Reaches Halfway Point

The 2014 Florida legislative session has reached the halfway point.
Credit StevenM_61 / Flickr

The 2014 Florida legislative session reached the halfway point last week, so we thought we'd check in on some of the big education bills.

The Budget

The House, Senate and Gov. Rick Scott mostly agree on education spending based on their proposed budgets.

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9:26 am
Mon April 7, 2014

Florida Watches New York Parents Organize Against Common Core Tests

Parents at a Brooklyn school opt out of state tests earlier this week.

Originally published on Mon April 7, 2014 6:02 am


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