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

A voter takes a "I'm a Georgia Voter" sticker after voting during Georgia's primary election at the polling station at South Lowndes Recreation Complex in Lake Park, Ga., Tuesday, March 1, 2016.
Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

DeKalb County’s Henderson Middle School is under construction. It’s getting new classrooms, a bigger media center and a new band suite, among other renovations. The updates are all funded by a 1-cent Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or E-SPLOST.  

On Tuesday, voters in several metro Atlanta counties will decide whether to renew the tax, which expires in July 2017.

State Sen. Fran Millar, R-Dunwoody, is opposing DeKalb’s E-SPLOST vote this year because the district decided not to publish a detailed project list.

Atlanta traffic
John Bazemore / Associated Press

Georgia will have one of its heaviest construction seasons this summer, according to state transportation officials.

“This summer there will be over 470 construction projects and maintenance projects going on statewide,” said Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry.

Tony Bennett, right, lead teacher at the Sheltering Arms, an early education and family center in Atlanta, Ga. works with a group of Pre-K students Thursday, May 10, 2007. A study released by the Southern Education Foundation reported that the South is le
Gene Blythe / Associated Press

A new report from the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) says enrollment and funding for Georgia’s pre-kindergarten program have dropped. The study also says class sizes are too high, teacher pay is too low and Georgia doesn’t offer enough support for dual language learners.

The study shows Georgia’s Pre-K program enrolled more than 1,000 fewer children during the 2014-15 school year than it did the year before.

Alan Alfaro (cropped) /

How well do college education programs train future teachers?

The answer depends on who you ask. According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, most programs have room to improve. The council grades states in several areas, including the quality of colleges' teacher training programs.

Lawrence Jackson /

Some White House officials came to town Monday to participate in a town hall meeting about President Obama's My Brother's Keeper initiative. 

The program focuses on providing opportunities for young people, especially boys of color. It centers around six standards: school readiness; reading on grade level by third grade; graduating from high school ‘college and career ready;’ completing postsecondary education or training; entering the workforce; and keeping kids on track.

Sue Desmond-Hellmann, Chief Executive Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation speaks at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington Oct. 14, 2015.
Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

It is graduation season, and undergraduates at Georgia State University received their diplomas Saturday. The commencement speaker was Sue Desmond-Hellmann, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The organization focuses on global health and development and equity in education in the U.S.

Desmond-Hellmann, who is also the former chancellor of the University of California, San Francisco, recently sat down with WABE's Martha Dalton at the Atlanta Grill. Their conversation begins with a summary of the foundation's work in education.

A report issued by a Georgia Legislative Study Committee on Mental Health shows one in five children have a diagnosable mental health problem. The study shows few of those kids receive appropriate treatment.

In addition, a recent "Kids Count" report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Georgia 37th among states when it comes to child wellness.

Now, state officials and child advocates are trying to figure out how to address the problem.

Elly Yu / WABE

A group of students who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children is suing each member of Georgia's Board of Regents. The group is fighting to pay in-state college tuition rates. The students say they have a "legal presence" in the U.S. through a federal program that temporarily shields them from deportation.

In February, the state Supreme Court rejected a similar case filed by the same students against the board as a whole. The Court said the board had "sovereign immunity" and couldn't be sued.

In this Nov. 20, 2014 photo, eight grader Aklya Thomas and teacher Faren Fransworth use a digital textbook to during a math class at Burney Harris Lyons Middle School in Athens, Ga.
John Bazemore / Associated Press

Georgia could do a better job preparing its teachers, according to a report from the National Council on Teacher Quality. 

The council grades states on the quality of their teacher training programs. When it comes to producing and retaining effective teachers, Georgia earned a C-plus.

Council President Kate Walsh says Georgia could improve its "student-teaching" programs, where college students teach in K-12 classrooms to gain experience.

Dboybaker /

Feeling safe in school may seem like a basic civil right. But plenty of students ─ especially those of certain faiths and cultures ─ are often harassed and bullied in American schools. There are no federal laws to protect them, and state laws vary.

Often, the attacks don’t stop at the end of the school day.

The Internet has made it easier for "cyberbullies" to work around the clock. Cyberbullying is defined as using electronic communication to bully someone, often by sending intimidating or threatening messages. 

Atlanta Public Schools Headquarters in Atlanta, Ga. on July 7, 2015.
Stephanie M. Lennox / WABE

Part of the Atlanta Public Schools' new turnaround plan involves closing some schools and merging others. The school board approved the plan in anticipation of a November ballot measure that would let the state intervene in under-performing schools. But under APS' plan, the newly-merged schools need new names.

That might sound like a simple process, but the school board has naming policies in place.  

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Delta Air Lines

Children with autism could now have an easier time traveling by plane from Atlanta.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport joined forces with Delta Air Lines and autism advocacy group The Arc to create a multi-sensory room for passengers with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The room opened this month, in honor of Autism Awareness Month.

The space is small, but Stacey Ramirez, state director of The Arc Georgia, says that’s intentional.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE


In November, voters will decide whether the state should be able to take over underperforming schools. However, officials with the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) aren’t waiting for the vote.

The board of education approved a "school turnaround" plan last month, but some parents at a school board meeting Monday night said the district has ignored their concerns.  

Students and teacher work in the robotics class at Charles R. Drew Charter School Elementary Academy.
East Lake Foundation / Courtesy of East Lake Foundation

Local school districts are looking to hire hundreds of teachers to start work next fall. But state officials say there's a "teacher dropout crisis" in Georgia; almost half of them leave within five years.

WABE's Martha Dalton spoke about the issue with Tyler Gwynn, a recruiter for the Cobb County schools. The conversation starts with the challenge of keeping good teachers once they're hired.

Martha Dalton / WABE

It’s a safe bet that most teachers don’t enter the profession to get wealthy. Still, some school districts have tried to entice teachers to take hard-to-fill jobs by offering financial incentives.  

For example, the Fulton County Schools offered signing bonuses this year to teachers willing to work in "critical needs" areas. Those include math, science, special education and foreign language teaching jobs, as well as positions in schools with low-income populations.

But it’s unclear whether that approach is an effective long-term solution.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Hundreds of Marietta families are in limbo. Their neighborhood faces re-zoning, but the zoning plan is up in the air.  

Juana Juarez says the thought of moving makes her sad.

“We have good neighbors,” she says. “I have children. I like their school.”

Mary Baker doesn't want to move either.

“I just think they have targeted us because they think our homes are not valuable and our families are not valuable,” Baker says.

Fulton County Schools

The Fulton County School Board Thursday offered Dr. Jeff Rose of the Beaverton, Oregon School District the job of superintendent. The move came after a required two-week public comment period. 

Rose was the first candidate the school board interviewed for the position. Board President Linda McCain said he made a good impression.

“As we interviewed him and got to know him, it became very clear that his leadership style and the way that he could articulate his philosophy and his passion for education would be a great asset to all the students in Fulton County," she said. 

Georgia Department of Corrections

Attorneys for Georgia Death Row inmate Joshua Bishop have asked the state Board of Pardons and Paroles Wednesday to spare his life.  

Defense lawyer Wilson DuBose said Bishop had an abusive mother, and had lived in 16 foster homes by the age of 15, when he was thrown out on the street. He said this troubled childhood led Bishop to beat a Milledgeville man named Leverette Morrison to death in 1994.

Georgia State University
Catherine Mullins / WABE

The SunTrust Foundation has awarded a $2 million grant to Georgia State University to create a first-of-its kind student financial management center.

The idea is to provide guidance for students facing financial problems that could keep them from earning degrees.

Tim Renick, GSU’s Vice Provost and Vice President of enrollment, management and student success, says advisors will help students navigate financial issues — both big or small.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Filmmakers who come to Georgia can get tax credits for up to 30 percent of their production costs. In addition to that, the state Legislature has passed a bill that would waive sales taxes on Superbowl tickets should the game come to Georgia. But one grassroots group strongly opposes both incentives.

Americans for Prosperity is a politically conservative organization tied to the Koch brothers. It generally favors tax credits, but Georgia director Michael Harden says not in these cases.

US Department of Education /

There could’ve been a lot of steam coming out of the Gold Dome this year if lawmakers had taken up some heated education issues. But legislators managed to sidestep thorny proposals this election year and focused on measures that seemed to please teachers.

In December, before the session started, a commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal recommended several changes to the state’s education system. Two proposals were bound to spark debate: overhauling the way the state funds schools and paying teachers based on how “effective” they are.

Tenth grade students take a chemistry test while in class at Springfield High School in Springfield, Ill. Illinois high school juniors will be tested on writing skills for the first time in years next spring during state standardized tests.
Seth Perlman / AP Photo, File

The U.S. Census Bureau projects by the year 2030, Georgia will have more residents of retirement age than in the workforce. At the same time, some local districts are considering exempting senior citizens from paying the school portion of their property taxes. This could mean less money for schools.

Matthew Ladner, a senior advisor for policy and research at the Foundation for Excellence in Education, says districts that want to ease the tax burden for seniors will likely have to make some tough choices.

Gov. Nathan Deal signs legislation to create an Opportunity School District in Georgia. The measure would allow the state to step in and help underperforming schools if voters approve it in the fall.
Brenna Beach / WABE

A coalition of groups including the Georgia Federation of Teachers, the League of Women Voters and the AFL-CIO publicly opposed Gov. Nathan Deal’s school takeover plan Tuesday. The Georgia Legislature passed the measure last year. If voters approve it in a November referendum, the state constitution will be amended to include it.

It’s too late to change the legislation, which creates an "Opportunity School District" to manage so-called "chronically failing" schools.

U.S. Department of Education/flickr / U.S. Department of Education/flickr

It may have been hard to notice Tuesday in the midst of the presidential election buzz, but the country officially got a new education secretary.

John King, the former education commissioner for the state of New York, was sworn in this week.

Fulton County Schools

The Fulton County schools announced Thursday it has tapped Jeff Rose, current superintendent of Beaverton School District in Oregon, as its new finalist for superintendent. He replaces former sole candidate Philip Lanoue of Clarke County, Georgia, who withdrew from consideration.


Susan Walsh / AP Photo

U.S. Education Secretary John King came to Georgia State University Wednesday. King says he was here to gather research on how to increase college graduation rates nationwide.  

GSU boosted its graduation rate 22 percentage points over ten years. Last year the U.S. Education Department gave Georgia State an $8.9 million grant to expand its work. After talking with students, King said the grant seems to be paying off.

Martha Dalton / WABE

The Cobb County school board will reconsider a newly-adjusted proposal that incentivizes parents to get involved at Pebblebrook High School.

In January, school board member David Morgan presented a program that would bar kids at Cobb’s Pebblebrook High School from some extracurricular activities if their parents didn’t attend school conferences and meetings.

“Quite frankly, I just got tired of looking at the same realities and really little being done about it,” Morgan said, referring to low parent participation at the school.  

Martha Dalton / WABE

This story is part of WABE and American Graduate's Advancing Atlanta: Education series. For more stories, click here.

Of all the problems facing public schools, one that has stumped educators for years is how to get kids to show up. Truancy, or chronic absenteeism, can be a particular problem in low-income areas. State research shows attendance is tied to achievement. Kids who miss more than six days of school during the year tend to see their academic performance slip.

Alan Alfaro (cropped) /

New research from the Foundation for Excellence in Education shows that as the U.S. population ages, the number of retired people could outnumber those in the workforce.  That’s bad news for schools, according to the foundation, because fewer people working means less tax revenue going toward schools.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Georgia’s Board of Regents adopted two policies Wednesday that address how state colleges handle sexual assault allegations.

Last year, a state committee found schools deal with claims of rape and other assaults differently. So the group came up with a statewide set of procedures, including training for staff and access to legal counsel for the accused and alleged victims.