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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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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Education
1:46 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

A Q & A With Activist And Algebra Project Founder Bob Moses

Algebra Project founder Bob Moses
Credit miller_center / Flickr

Fifty years ago Bob Moses organized volunteers to register voters in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer.

And for decades, Moses has been fighting for civil rights as an educator.

He’s won a MacArthur Genius Grant to develop a new way to teach algebra in largely low-income and minority schools.

The Algebra Project shows students how to translate mathematics into common language and back — to simplify algebra.

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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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Education
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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