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

Martha Dalton / WABE

This story is part of "Atlanta Remembers: The 1996 Olympics," WABE's series on the impact of the 1996 Summer Olympics on Atlanta, 20 years later. For more stories, click here.  

When the Summer Olympics came to Atlanta 20 years ago, organizers had to build dozens of sporting venues from scratch.

The price tag was $1.7 billion. All the money was raised through private donations.

Two decades later, some venues are thriving, while others have languished.

Jaime Henry-White / Associated Press

When schools don't meet state standards, should the government be able to intervene? That question will appear before voters in November. The Opportunity School District, pitched by Gov. Nathan Deal, would set up a state agency to run schools that have earned an F on the state's report card for three consecutive years.

A coalition of groups, called the Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local, is planning to launch a campaign against the proposal, called OSD for short.

Gene Blythe / Associated Press

Georgia's early education teachers needs a raise. That’s one of the findings of a new report from the University of California at Berkeley.

The Early Childhood Workforce Index says most states don’t pay early education teachers well enough. Megan Gunnar, a professor of childhood development at the University of Minnesota, helped develop the index. She says it takes strong teachers to work with kids under the age of five.

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 will soon get $16 million in federal money through what’s known as the School Improvement Grant program, or SIG. The program aims to turn around states’ lowest-performing schools.

Schools that participate have to adopt one of four improvement models. For example, some administrators and teachers might be replaced; a school might convert to a charter school; or it could shut down and reopen under different leadership.

Immigration activists hold signs and shout during a protest in front of a building that houses federal immigration offices Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013, in Atlanta. Eight activists, protesting deportations of people who are in the country illegally, were taken
John Bazemore / AP Photo

The U.S. Supreme Court failed to rule last week on an expansion of President Barack Obama’s 2012 immigration plan. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, provides temporary protection from deportation for some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

DeKalb School Board Superintendent Dr. R. Stephen Green
Al Such / WABE

The DeKalb County school board has approved a budget for the upcoming year. The district is directing more money toward the classroom than it has in past years.

The plan includes almost $20 million for staff raises, $4 million for signing and retention bonuses for teachers and $2 million to develop district-wide curricula.

The Atlanta Public School system said it’s investigating a tip that 30 Glock handguns were stolen from the trunk of a district vehicle. APS officials said a caller left the anonymous tip on the district’s ethics hotline last week. APS said it has found no evidence so far to support the claim.

The district is preparing to launch its own police force next month. It purchased 90 firearms for that purpose, all of which the district says are accounted for.

Voters cast ballots in Georgia's primary election at a polling site in a firehouse Tuesday, March 1, 2016, in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Leading up to November’s presidential election, Georgia has seen a rise in the number of Asian-Americans and Latinos who’ve registered to vote. But, according to at least one expert, that kind of increase isn't likely to affect the election. 

According to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office, the number of registered Latino voters jumped by about 20 percent in recent months; Asian Americans grew by 16 percent. However, the two voting blocs combined are still less than 5 percent of the state’s electorate.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

During the 2014-15 school year, Atlanta Public Schools discovered several cases of grade-tampering at a handful of high schools. At the Carver School of Technology, students who'd been taught mostly by substitute teachers didn't get any grades at the end of the semester. Principal Josie Love told her staff to give all the students a grade of 85 with the chance to earn extra credit.

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

The Governor’s Office of Student Achievement has developed a new tool to help explain grades given to schools.

The website breaks down data from the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI), which scores schools on a 100-point scale. The index uses data like test scores, attendance records and graduation rates to calculate a school’s grade.

Public schools are often judged on student achievement, like test scores. But Georgia schools are now required by law to evaluate schools by their climate too. Georgia uses parent, student and teacher surveys, school discipline records, and attendance rates to calculate a score for each school. The ratings are based on a numeric scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.

The Georgia Department of Education says 85 percent of schools scored a 3 or above in 2015. That's compared to 84 percent in 2014.

In an effort to boost Georgia students’ exposure to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses, state officials welcomed 60 new Woodrow Wilson Fellows on Wednesday. The group will begin working in classrooms in the fall. 

Gov. Nathan Deal told the honorees at a ceremony that high quality teachers are the key to keeping kids in class and out of prison.

“Those individuals who are now costing the taxpayers of Georgia about $19,000 a year to keep them incarcerated, their most common characteristic is they dropped out of school,” Deal said.

Maya Dillard Smith

The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is looking for a new director, after Maya Dillard Smith resigned the post last week. Smith had only been on the job for a year, after moving from California. She says ultimately, it wasn’t a good fit.

“It became clear that we were principally and philosophically different in opinion,” she says.

In this Thursday, Aug. 4, 2011 photo, new teacher Sarah Welch, left, receives classroom materials from veteran teacher Michele Alford at Toomer Elementary School in Atlanta.
Dorie Turner / AP Photo

The U.S. Education Department has announced proposed regulations for the new federal education law, which replaces "No Child Left Behind." No Child Left Behind relied on test scores to determine how well public schools were educating children.

Standardized tests are still part of the new law, called the "Every Student Succeeds Act." But it includes a lot more than testing, said President Barack Obama when he signed it in December.

In this photo taken Jan. 17, 2016, a sign is seen at the entrance to a hall for a college test preparation class at Holton Arms School.
Alex Brandon / Associated Press

School is out for most Atlanta-area students, but some high schoolers may have to wait for their final grades. The state has taken longer than expected to issue Georgia Milestones scores to schools. 

The test, which is aligned to the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards, is given yearly to students in grades 3-8.

Martha Dalton / WABE

On Tuesday, voters in DeKalb and Fulton counties and the cities of Atlanta and Decatur approved the renewal of a one-cent sales tax for school renovations. DeKalb's Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) passed by a record-setting 71 percent margin, according to school district officials.

Courtesy of East Lake Foundation

Atlanta Public Schools could lose control of more than 40 percent of its schools if voters approve a plan in November to let the state take over the ones it deems as “failing.” It could also lose money. The local revenue used to run the schools would go to the state instead of the district.

Laura Emiko Soltis / Freedom University

A group of Georgia students who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children is suing each member of Georgia's Board of Regents over college tuition rates. Now, a national nonprofit called TheDream.US is offering an alternative.

The students, who are often called "Dreamers," are fighting to change two policies. One bans undocumented students from Georgia’s top five public colleges. The other requires them to pay out-of-state tuition rates at the state's remaining schools.

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.