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
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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Education
10:39 pm
Sun September 7, 2014

First Latina Elected to Lead the Country’s Largest Union

Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Lily Eskelsen Garcia is the first Latina elected to lead the country’s largest union – the National Education Association.

Thursday was her fourth day on the job and she spent it in Miami-Dade County.

A 6 a.m. airplane tour of the Keys. Visits to two schools. A headliner role stumping for the Democratic candidate in the nation’s most-watched governor’s race.

All in a day’s work for Eskelsen Garcia, who says she will be an outspoken union leader.

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Education
8:37 pm
Tue September 2, 2014

Lee County School Board Reverses Testing Boycott

Testing opponents quietly show support for speakers at Tuesday's Lee County school board meeting. The board voted 3-2 to reverse its state testing boycott.

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 7:02 am

The Lee County school board has reversed its decision to reject state tests, after board member Mary Fischer changed her mind. Last week the board became the first in Florida to refuse to offer state tests to its students on a 3-2 vote.

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Education
9:50 am
Fri August 29, 2014

Florida's Teacher Union Says Scholarship Program Is Unconstitutional

The Florida Education Association is challenging the state's private school tax credit scholarship program in court.

Originally published on Thu August 28, 2014 10:14 pm

When Florida first approved its private school tax credit scholarship program in 2001, Florida Education Association attorney Ron Meyer said education groups questioned the legality, but no one really objected to helping low-income students get out of low-performing schools.

But then the scholarship program started to grow. Lawmakers approved a law that automatically expanded the program each year. Then earlier this year lawmakers raised the income cap. Now, a family of four earning $62,000 can receive a partial scholarship.

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Education
9:44 am
Thu August 28, 2014

Florida Ready To Challenge Federal Testing Rules For Students Learning English

Gov. Rick Scott says he's giving the U.S. Department of Education 30 days to change their mind about testing requirements for students learning English or the state could head to court.
Credit John O'Connor / Flickr

Gov. Rick Scott is ready to take the federal government to court over testing rules for students learning English.

The U.S. Department of Education says Florida must count those students’ results after one year in school. Scott and Florida educators want to give students two years to learn English.

Scott said Education Commissioner Pam Stewart will send a letter asking the U.S. Department of Education to reconsider testing rules for students learning English. If they don’t change their mind in 30 days, Scott said the state could go to court.

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Education
11:32 am
Mon August 18, 2014

Florida School Districts Preparing For Central American Immigrants

More than 120 Honduran students have enrolled in Miami Jackson Senior High School the past two years. Schools across Florida are expecting thousands of immigrants from Central America -- many traveling without their parents -- this school year.

Originally published on Wed August 20, 2014 6:24 am

Jessica Gaspar was born in the U.S. and grew up speaking English at school -- but at home, she speaks Q'anjob'al.

That’s the Mayan language spoken by her Guatemalan parents.

She said she and her brother struggled to practice their English once the school day ended. It's why Gaspar volunteers at a community center on a back street lined with body shops in Lake Worth.

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Politics
11:20 pm
Thu August 7, 2014

"We Lurch": Activist Bob Moses On The Current Fight For Voting Rights

Civil Right activist and educator Bob Moses says the federal government should do more to ensure Americans' right to vote.
Credit miller_center / Flickr

Monday is the first day of early voting for this year’s primary elections.

In Florida, voting -- early or otherwise -- has been disputed in various ways over past decade.

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StateImpact Florida
9:48 am
Mon August 4, 2014

How Florida Coding Camps Are Teaching Students Old-School Logic

CodeNow's Kareem Grant works with students during a June coding camp in Miami. Grant likes that coding requires disciplined thinking.
Credit John O'Connor / StateImpact Florida

Ryan Seashore starts off every CodeNow workshop with a simple request: Write out step-by-step instructions for making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Then a CodeNow teacher pretends to be a robot, and follows the students’ orders exactly as they’re written.

Students quickly find that asking a computer to perform an everyday task isn’t so easy.

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