John O'Connor

Reporter, StateImpact Florida

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

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StateImpact Florida
11:53 am
Mon December 15, 2014

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

Diamante Sharpe leads an practice session for student health educators in the HIP program.
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
11:53 am
Mon December 8, 2014

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

Husband and wife filmmakers Adam and Jaye Fenderson are showing their documentary, "First Generation," in Miami this week.
Credit Courtesy Adam and Jaye Fenderson

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. And first generation college students are less likely to take tough high school courses needed to be prepared for college.

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Education
10:12 am
Tue November 25, 2014

Your Guide To The Florida Standards Assessments

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
10:23 am
Mon November 24, 2014

Meet Florida's New Statewide Test

Florida students will take a new test starting this spring.
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
10:55 am
Mon November 17, 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
4:05 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.

Originally published on Thu November 13, 2014 12:07 pm

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
11:05 am
Mon November 10, 2014

To Make High Schoolers Want To Read, Miami Teacher Makes It A Competition

Miami Northwestern Senior High writing teacher Daniel Dickey says you have to be a good reader to be a good writer. He's challenged his student to read one million words this year.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Miami Northwestern High School English teacher Daniel Dickey has found a way to make his tenth graders brag about their reading skills.

Mischael Saint-Sume and Ciji Wright tease each other about who's going to read one million words first -- a contest Dickey created.

“Did you put him in his place?" Dickey asked Wright. "Because Mischael, he’s popping in my classroom every day with a new book."

“Oh don’t worry about it because I’ve got plenty of books for him,” Wright replied.

“But it ends today, by the way," Saint-Sume said. “I’m going to hit a million.”

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StateImpact Florida
9:55 am
Mon October 27, 2014

What A Second Term Of Rick Scott Or Charlie Crist Will Mean For Florida Education

Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist have talked about K-12 funding, the cost of college and other education issues.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Polls show Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist are polarizing. Voters are as likely to dislike the candidates as they are to approve of them.

So both candidates are talking about schools, colleges and scholarships -- to motivate their supporters.

“Education is an issue that is helping to appeal to the base," says Sean Foreman, a Barry University political science professor and chairman of the education committee for the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce.

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Education
11:04 am
Mon October 13, 2014

How A Miami Middle School Added Speech And Debate Classes On A Budget

Veldreana Oliver has taught physical education for 28 years at Allapattah Middle School. More recently, her principal asked her to teach writing, speech and debate
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Last week, StateImpact Florida told you how a middle school in Miami has added speech and debate courses this year to improve reading, writing and speaking.

The school’s principal, Bridget McKinney, majored in debate and thought the requirements for Florida’s new Common Core-based standards sounded a lot like her college classes. She needed a writing teacher for new speech and debate courses she wanted to create.

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StateImpact Florida
9:54 am
Mon October 6, 2014

Why A Miami Middle School Is Teaching Debate To Conquer Common Core

Allapattah Middle School principal Bridget McKinney sits in on one of the speech and debate classes she's required her students to take. McKinney says the Common Core standards emphasis using evidence and making arguments.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Bridget McKinney, principal at Miami's Allapattah Middle School, says her students struggle to pass the state's reading and writing tests.

So when McKinney first read the Common Core math and language arts standards used in Florida schools this year, what jumped out was the emphasis on answering questions and making arguments using examples and evidence from what students are reading.

It took McKinney back to college -- she was a speech major. So she decided her sixth, seventh and eighth graders would have to take a speech and debate course each year.

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StateImpact Florida
11:27 am
Mon September 22, 2014

How Broward College Is Reducing Student Debt

The debt management seminar taught by Kent Dunston is part of the school's efforts to reduce student loan debt.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

To get a student loan at Broward College, you’ve got to sit through a two-hour financial lesson with Kent Dunston first.

At times, it’s a little like “Scared Straight!” – that 1978 documentary about setting juvenile delinquents on the right path -- but for your credit score.

Dunston’s first piece of advice – figure out how much money you’re going to need.

“You’re not going to borrow more than that amount of money,” he told the students. “You’ll be offered more. You don’t need it.”

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Education
10:05 pm
Wed September 17, 2014

State Universities Want $45 Million To Offset Bright Futures Changes

State university officials are asking for $45 million in needs-based aid to help make up for cuts to Bright Futures.

Originally published on Wed September 17, 2014 4:32 pm

State university leaders want to add $45 million in needs-based financial aid to help make up for changes to the Bright Futures scholarship program. Those new, higher qualifications will eliminate more than $250 million a year in college aid by 2018.

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Education
6:07 am
Tue September 16, 2014

Lawmaker Says Financial Aid Could Depend On Classes, Not Just Test Scores

Senate Education Chairman John Legg said lawmakers may discuss ways to make state financial aid depend more on classes and less on test scores.

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 2:14 pm

A key Senate lawmaker may put less emphasis on test scores to determine which students qualify for state financial aid for college -- possibly including Bright Futures.

Instead, scholarships  and grants would depend more on taking tougher classes in high school.

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Education
2:11 pm
Mon September 15, 2014

New Bright Futures Rules Changing College Plans For Florida Students

Jake Seiler had to put his plans to attend the University of South Florida on hold for a year to earn an associate's degree at Palm Beach State College because he didn't qualify for Bright Futures. His dad, Paul, calls changes to Bright Futures an "injustice."
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Most new Palm Beach College Students were going through orientation earlier this month, but Jake Seiler was wrapping up his first three courses.

Despite earning the highest SAT scores of his two siblings — 1100, on six attempts — Seiler didn’t score high enough this year to earn the Bright Futures Florida Medallion scholarship his older sister got last year.

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Education
10:23 pm
Mon September 8, 2014

Donna Shalala Will Step Down As University of Miami President

Donna Shalala is stepping down as president of the University of Miami next year.

Originally published on Mon September 8, 2014 6:14 pm

University of Miami president Donna Shalala says she’s stepping down next year from the job she’s held since 2001.



Shalala came to the university after leading the federal health agency for eight years and serving as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 She helped build the national stature of the school's medical school and hospital and increased research budgets.

Frank Nero, former head of the Beacon Council, says even big businessmen were impressed by Shalala

.

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