Martha Dalton

Reporter, Fill-in Host

Martha Dalton is a native of Atlanta, Georgia. She came to WABE in May 2010 after working at CNN Radio. 

Martha covers education and immigration issues in the metro Atlanta area and statewide. She also reports on how federal education policy is enacted at the local level. She has covered the DeKalb County school district extensively, including governor’s recent decision to replace six board members. She reported on the indictment of 35 former educators in the Atlanta Public Schools.  Martha has worked in partnership with NPR and its StateImpact project on reporting key educational issues, such as the implementation of the Common Core State Standards. She is also a contributor to the NPR show LatinoUSA and American Public Media's Marketplace Morning Report

Martha has worked for radio stations in Atlanta, Savannah, and Charleston, S.C.  In her former life, she worked for ten years as a teacher and reading specialist for students in grades K-12. She has a bachelor’s degree from Furman University and a master’s degree from Georgia State. 

You can follow Martha on Tumblr and Twitter

Ways to Connect

Courtesy of East Lake Foundation

A commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal to overhaul the way Georgia funds public schools will submit recommendations to him this month. Atlanta-area school districts would benefit under the plan.

Commission chairman Charles Knapp recently termed the proposal a "student-based" formula. The current calculation, called Quality Basic Education, or QBE, is "activities-based," he said.

The Fulton County school district is in pretty good shape, but it's struggling in at least one area. That was the message from interim Superintendent Ken Zeff at Fulton's "State of the District" address Thursday.

The school system has a balanced budget, an improving graduation rate and three years as a charter district under its belt. But despite the recent progress Fulton has made, Zeff said the district isn’t making headway in some schools in low-income areas.


Commuters willing to try a new way of getting to work could earn some extra cash.

Georgia Commute Options is offering $5 a day -- up to $150 total -- to switch to an alternative form of transportation such as carpooling, public transit or even biking.

Courtesy of Alliance Theatre

The Alliance Theater has announced plans for a massive $22 million renovation. The idea is to improve acoustics and to make audience members feel more connected to performances. 

"You will walk into a room that has the audience literally populating the walls, that quite literally has the audience wrapping around the entire chamber,” says Susan Booth, the theater’s artistic director.

Booth says the concept is similar to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

Stephanee Stephens and her students use tablets during an eighth grade Spanish class at Autrey Mill Middle School in Johns Creek, Ga. on Thursday, May 9, 2013.
John Bazemore / Associated Press

Georgia students didn’t improve much on national math and reading test scores released Wednesday. They didn’t drop much, either.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP, is given to a sample of fourth and eighth graders every two years. In 2015, Georgia scores ticked up ever-so-slightly in fourth-grade reading compared to 2013. They ticked down in eighth-grade reading.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Some Atlanta-area communities could lose control of their struggling schools if voters approve a plan proposed by Gov. Nathan Deal next fall. The two districts with the most schools at risk are DeKalb County and Atlanta Public Schools. The pressure is on, and the districts are pulling out all the stops to avoid a potential state takeover.

Pressure To Perform 

At a recent DeKalb school board meeting, Morcease Beasley, DeKalb’s executive director of curriculum and instruction, explained the district’s plan to avoid a potential state takeover.

Bearden /

State transportation officials will hold a community meeting on Thursday about a proposed redesign for Peachtree Road in Buckhead. 

The full plan would cover the area between Interstate-85 and the Lenox area. This phase of the proposal encompasses the stretch of Peachtree between Pharr and Deering Roads. The proposal calls for repaving Peachtree, and merging the road's two middle lanes to create one big turn lane in the process.

Georgia Department of Transportation spokeswoman Natalie Dale says going from six lanes to five should improve traffic and safety.

Gov. Nathan Deal this week announced the launch of a statewide work-based learning program, called WorkSmart.

The initiative helps businesses develop on-the-job training programs for potential employees.

Cinda Herndon-King, director of Atlanta Career Rise, said these kinds of workforce development programs are usually successful, especially with high school students considered "at risk" of dropping out.

Michelle Wirth / WABE

The Cobb County Commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to buy six buses for a planned transit route.

The so-called "circulator" shuttle would travel between places like Cumberland Mall, the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, and the new Atlanta Braves' stadium.

Jim Wilgus, deputy director of the Cobb County Department of Transportation, says the county is moving ahead with the plan, even though commissioners haven't given final approval yet.

Judy Baxter /

It looks like there could be one area where Democrats and Republicans agree these days: school testing. Members of both parties say kids could be taking too many exams.

Last month, the Georgia Department of Education, led by Republican Superintendent Richard Woods, launched a statewide audit to see if children are over-tested.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Georgia is locking up fewer young people in juvenile detention centers than it used to. According to state data, the youth incarceration rate has dropped 52 percent since 1997.

Still, some advocates say schools are referring too many youths to juvenile courts for minor offenses.

However, Clayton County seems to have broken the mold by ensuring smaller cases are handled in schools.

Courtesy Office of Gov. Nathan Deal

Last week, special investigators released a scathing report on corruption in DeKalb County. In it, investigators Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde called on DeKalb CEO Lee May to resign.

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed May to the position more than two years ago when former CEO Burrell Ellis was indicted on corruption charges. Tuesday, Deal said he doesn’t regret tapping May for the post.

Georgia state capitol
Nick Nesmith / WABE

A bill pending in the Georgia Legislature would create a constitutional amendment allowing Georgia cities to create their own school districts. Cities like Brookhaven and Dunwoody, both part of the DeKalb schools system, have strongly supported the plan.

The city of Dunwoody seems ready to take on that fight in the Legislature next year. The city’s mayor, Mike Davis, defended the bill recently on WABE's "Closer Look" with Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer.

Courtesy of Agnes Scott College

A network of 700 U.S. colleges and universities signed an agreement to cut carbon emissions in 2007. The group will sign an extension of that commitment Monday at Agnes Scott College in Decatur.

“We’re asking this whole network of colleges and universities to add a commitment to being leaders in their communities around making their communities more resilient in the face of climate change," Agnes Scott President Elizabeth Kiss said.

U.S. Department of Education

Starting Monday, leaders from around the state will participate in “Georgia Pre-K Week” by visiting classrooms and reading to children. The idea is to draw attention to early education programs.

“We can talk about our standards and our program and the great results the program gets and the children receive as a result of the program,” says Amy Jacobs, commissioner of Georgia’s Department of Early Care and Learning, which oversees Georgia Pre-K Week. “But I think there’s nothing better than seeing it and actually interacting with the teachers and the students.”

Atlanta traffic
John Bazemore / Associated Press

The Obama Administration just tightened smog regulations on Thursday. Georgia will have to work hard to meet the new standards, but will have plenty of time to do it.

The Environmental Protection Agency reduced the allowable amount of ground-level ozone pollution—or smog. That means dealing with its two main sources: electricity and car exhaust. Brian Gist, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, says there are some obvious changes Georgia can make.

Gene Blythe / AP Photo

DeKalb County’s pre-kindergarten teachers will soon get a big pay bump. Under a new plan set to take effect in January, the district will pay pre-K teachers on a regular teacher salary scale. That’s rare in Georgia.

DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Stephen Green said the increase is overdue.

“I have a profound appreciation for the impact [pre-K teachers] have on our young people in terms of their social/emotional development, but also how that carries over into their academic performance and gives them that sound and important good first start,” he said.

A proposal to build a soccer stadium in DeKalb County was approved by a majority of commissioners last month, but it faced fierce opposition at a meeting Monday night.

DeKalb Commissioners Nancy Jester, Kathie Gannon and Jeff Rader hosted what they called a “community conversation” about DeKalb County's stadium deal with the new professional soccer team Atlanta United FC. All three voted against the plan, but were outnumbered by the other four commissioners.

About 70 residents attended the meeting. Some were upset the deal was approved without public input.

Nick Nesmith / WABE

The language in the DeKalb County school board’s new charter schools policy is getting some pushback.

The new document says DeKalb will authorize charter schools with “innovative, unique … academic programs.”  State officials want to remove the word "innovative," because they say it sets an unreasonably high standard.  Friday, the Georgia Charter Schools Association echoed the state’s request in an open letter to DeKalb officials.

Buckhead CID

When you think of Georgia 400, you may not think, “What a great place for a park!” But the Buckhead Community Improvement District is developing a way to link the two.

Executive Director Jim Durrett says the CID wants to build a nine-acre park over a section of the Georgia 400 highway, capping the area between the Atlanta Financial Center and the Buckhead Loop.

“You want to have a park that’s in the middle of everything, and if you imagine yourself a bird flying above the commercial core of Buckhead, this is pretty much smack dab in the middle of it,” he says.

Cyclists during the 2014 Mayor's Bike Ride in Atlanta
Steve Eberhardt / Courtesy Atlanta Bicycle Coalition


This week, the Atlanta City Council approved some new transit initiatives. Officials hope the projects will spur interest and investment.

One part of the plan, called Connect Atlanta, adds 31 miles of bike lanes to several areas, including Midtown and downtown. City Councilman Kwanza Hall represents some of the areas where those lanes will be. He says they’ll help attract people to the center of town.

Tour guide, Andrew McClure stands on his Segway next to the Mohandas Gandhi statue at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic site in Atlanta.
Alison Guillory / WABE

Earlier this month, WABE sent our reporters out to find out one thing: "What defines Atlanta, exactly? Do we have a unique identity?"

Reporter Martha Dalton is an Atlanta native and wanted to try to answer that question from a tourist's perspective. So, she took a Segway tour with ATL Cruzers.

The tour wove through Atlanta's East Side, hitting plenty of historical sites. Tourists are immersed in Atlanta's history as a hub of the civil rights movement.

Leah Clements

Leaders in Atlanta's faith community delivered a letter to Georgia's Board of Pardons and Paroles Wednesday. They want to stop the scheduled execution of Georgia’s only woman on death row, Kelly Gissendaner.

They sang "Kumbayah," prayed and urged the board to commute Gissendaner’s death sentence to life without parole. Gissendaner was convicted of murder after her husband was killed in 1997. She was accused of conspiring with her boyfriend, who stabbed Doug Gissendaner to death.

Martha Dalton / WABE

A coalition of grassroots groups rallied in Woodruff Park Tuesday to spotlight National Voter Registration Day. Groups like the NAACP, Asian-Americans Advancing Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union were all out encourage voter participation.

Last year, some of the same groups said tens of thousands of people they helped sign up weren’t registered when they went to the polls. State officials have denied that.

Atlanta NAACP President Richard Rose says it’s unclear whether the issue has been resolved.

Georgia health officials are behind on a federal requirement to move people with developmental disabilities out of state hospitals and into community care centers. That’s according to a recent report by an independent monitor.

An agreement with the Justice Department gave Georgia until July 1 to move the patients out. But there are still 240 mentally disabled adults in state-run hospitals. That’s down from 2,000 patients seven years ago.

Patrons at a summer meal kickoff event for the Atlanta Food Bank
Art of Life Photography

The U.S. Congress could be gearing up for a food fight with First Lady Michelle Obama. Lawmakers could decide to make more changes to meals served in school cafeterias.

Last year, Obama championed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. Congress passed the law, which changed school nutrition requirements. Schools now have to serve more whole grains and fruit ─ and less sodium.

Dr. Marilyn Hughes is the nutrition director for the Atlanta Public Schools. She likes most of the changes, but says the sodium restrictions are too rigid.

Georgia State University
Catherine Mullins

Two Atlanta colleges will get federal education grants to help them boost retention and graduation rates.

The U.S. Department of Education announced Monday that Spelman College and Georgia State University will receive more than $11 million total toward those efforts.

Georgia State will get almost $9 million. The university has tracked all of its students for the last three years to see what factors cause some to drop out. GSU will work with other universities — in states like Arizona, Texas and Ohio -- to expand that research.

Martha Dalton

Atlanta residents tuned in to the Republican presidential debate Wednesday night. Some flocked to Manuel’s Tavern in Virginia-Highland, known as a Democratic hangout during election season. It was packed with debate watchers, like Megan Harrison.

She wasn’t pleased with the questions candidates were asked, like whether they’d feel comfortable with Donald Trump’s fingers on the nuclear codes.

Denis O'Hayer interviews Georgia Governor Nathan Deal
Katie King / WABE

Gov. Nathan Deal isn’t shying away from what is perhaps the most controversial topic for education in the state.

The governor laid out his vision for education Thursday for leaders in the field from all over the state: everything from restoring cuts to the pre-kindergarten program to improving technology.

But he saved the biggest issue for the end of his 25-minute speech: his plan to let the state to take over underperforming schools by Department of Education standards.

Graduates of Emory University look toward the main stage Monday as the private school held its 170th commencement. Emory says this year's graduating class is 57% female.
Jim Burress / WABE

Georgia colleges are among some of the country’s best, according to new rankings released Wednesday.

U.S. News and World Report puts Emory University (21st), Georgia Tech (36th) and the University of Georgia (61st) in its list of Top 100 colleges in the country.

U.S. News chief data strategist Robert Morse says the rankings are based on multiple criteria.