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

Alison Guillory / WABE

Expanding Atlanta's transit options would inject more than $5 billion into the economy and create thousands of jobs, according to a new report from the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Georgia Transportation Alliance. 

The report focuses on three proposed MARTA expansions: the Clifton corridor, Georgia 400, and along Interstate-20 Eastbound toward the Mall at Stonecrest. It also includes a fourth set of projects, yet to be named.

The Georgia House has approved a bill giving HOPE Scholarship recipients more credit for science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM, courses.

Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton) says the change will encourage students to take such classes and pursue jobs in fields that need skilled employees. HOPE Scholarship recipients must maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0 to keep receiving help for college tuition.

Jones said the GPA requirements may have led some students to avoided the courses due to fear of losing their scholarship eligibility.

The DeKalb County School System has regained full accreditation. The district was slapped with a probationary sanction in 2012 after a scathing report from its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or SACS.

Mark Elgart, the CEO of AdvancEd, SACS' parent company, said the school board worked to achieve its new status by establishing policies, improving operations and stabilizing the district’s leadership.

Emiko Soltis, Freedom University

Georgia's university system got a win from the state Supreme Court Monday, when justices decided the Board of Regents can't be sued by a group of students. The high court ruled the Board of Regents is immune from lawsuits.  

But the students vowed to continue to fight. They're a group of students who have graduated from Georgia high schools and have temporary protection from deportation, also known as "DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students."

Some of them even say a Regents' policy that bans them from the state's top colleges is a subtle form of racism.

Shannan Muskopf /

Georgia has earned an 'A' for the rigor of its education standards from a new report from the journal Education Next. The same publication gave Georgia’s standards an ‘F’ in 2013.  

Georgia hasn't changed its standards since 2013. But the state did change the test it uses to see how well students learned those standards. The report examined the strength of state tests.  

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Next fall, Georgia voters will be asked whether the state should be authorized to take over schools it deems "chronically failing."

If the measure passes, 26 Atlanta public schools, or 60 percent, could qualify for a takeover. APS’s plan to save those schools looks outside the district.

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 Georgia Department of Education wants the public's opinion on new proposed science and social studies standards. 

The standards were written by Georgia teachers, Georgia Department of Education Communications Director Matt Cardoza says. 

"We got feedback from those in the classroom who've been teaching science and social studies standards for the last several years under Georgia Performance Standards, got their feedback, made some changes, and now we're at a point where we need to hear from others,” Cardoza says.

Dan Raby / WABE

For the second time this week, a group of parents met Thursday night to discuss overcrowding at some DeKalb public schools. The meeting, aimed at Spanish-speaking parents, was held at the Latin American Association (LAA), a nonprofit outreach organization.  

A group of about 50 Latino parents gathered to hear information and give feedback about redistricting plans for Cross Keys High School and the schools that feed into it. Most of the schools have high Latino populations and are over-capacity. So, the schools are using more than 100 portable classrooms to accommodate everyone.

Dan Raby / WABE

About a hundred DeKalb County parents showed up at a meeting Tuesday night to try to figure out how to ease overcrowding at some schools.  The school district has proposed several short-term solutions, all of which involve redistricting.

The district has come up with three different plans for elementary schools and two for high schools. No changes are planned for Sequoyah Middle School.

All of the options involve shuffling kids from schools that are over-capacity to ones that have room.

The University of Georgia arch in Athens, Georgia on Wednesday, March 18, 2015. (Photo/Brenna Beech)
Brenna Beech / WABE

The University of Georgia has the fifth-best online bachelor’s degree program in the country, according to new rankings from U.S. News and World Report.

The publication says it calculates the rankings based on student engagement, faculty credentials, student services and technology and peer reputation.

Keith Bailey, director of UGA’s online learning program, says online degree programs aren’t shortcuts to earning a bachelor’s.

In this June 2, 2015 file photo, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks to reporters following a ceremony announcing a $300 million expansion of Google's data center operations in Lithia Springs, Ga.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia has funded its public schools the same way for 30 years. Some educators and lawmakers are complaining the formula the state uses is old and out-of-date.

Now, a commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal has recommend lawmakers adopt a completely new way to fund schools.

Here, we take a look at the differences between the "old" and "new" ways to pay for public education.

In the Beginning

Martha Dalton / WABE

There are plenty of issues facing Georgia's public schools in 2016 — from funding to figuring out what to do with failing schools.

Dana Rickman, director of policy and research with the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, said Georgia needs to 'mind' the various gaps between kids.

"We have income gaps; we have achievement gaps; we have health gaps; we have expectation gaps; we have mobility gaps,” Rickman said recently at the GPEE’s media symposium. “There are a lot of freaking gaps out there."

Alison Guillory / WABE

The state legislative session will begin next week, but some issues, like performance-based pay for teachers, are already causing a buzz.   

Georgia currently pays teachers based on their level of education and years of experience. The state pays a base salary, and school districts can supplement that if they choose.

Last month, a commission appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal recommended revising the salary system. Chairman Charles Knapp said the commission proposed asking school districts to come up with their own pay scales instead.

David Goldman / Associated Press

A national nonprofit that represents children who’ve fled violence in Central America is opening an Atlanta office. The organization, Kids in Need of Defense, or KIND, was founded by actress Angelina Jolie and Microsoft Corp. 

Christina Iturralde is the supervising attorney for KIND's new Atlanta office. She says unaccompanied minors who arrive in the U.S. have to go through two systems: immigration court and juvenile court. But, she says, few attorneys handle such cases.

US Department of Education /

A state representative has pre-filed a bill ahead of the upcoming legislative session that would increase the mandatory school age in Georgia.

Democratic Rep. Keisha Waites of Atlanta has authored legislation that would require students to start school at age five instead of six.

Under the bill, students would also have to stay in school until age 17, instead of 16.

Nick Nesmith/WABE

This year, a group of parents in DeKalb County are starting to see their persistence pay off. 

Fighting for Rights 

Parents, like Kirk Lunde, are fighting for their children's education. Lunde’s son, DeShawn Lunde, is in high school now. Every year, Lunde has had to make sure DeShawn gets the classes he needs. DeShawn has a hard time expressing himself, and his father said he needs help with social skills.

Karen Apricot /

More than a quarter of Georgia students live in poverty, according to research from the Kids Count Data Center. In a new report, a majority of teachers say that is the biggest barrier to student achievement.

The study, issued by the nonprofit organization Communities In Schools (CIS), says kids in poverty often skip school. Georgia chapter President and CEO Carol Lewis says the reasons range from hunger to health problems to not having the right supplies.

Martha Dalton/WABE

A commission tapped by Gov. Nathan Deal and charged with reforming some of the state's education programs presented its recommendations to him Tuesday.

The proposal includes a new way to fund schools.  One controversial piece of that is teacher pay.

Right now, Georgia pays teachers based on their teaching experience and level of education. That salary system is known as "T. and E."

Martha Dalton spoke with Commission Chairman, and former UGA President, Charles Knapp about the recommended changes.


DoDEA Pacific /

The U.S. Senate is expected to take a final vote Wednesday on a law that would replace the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, better known as No Child Left Behind.

The Every Student Succeeds Act includes music as a core subject – along with English, math, science and history – for the first time.

Cecil Wilder, the executive director of the Georgia Music Educators Association, says that's good news for students here.

APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools is a "choice-friendly" district, according to a new report from the Fordham Institute. Choice-friendly means children can attend schools outside their neighborhoods. But the study also says APS could offer more options for families.

Fordham gave APS high marks for its school choice policies. But the district scored lower on the quantity and quality of its programs. Also, it doesn't provide transportation. So students who choose to go to a school outside their attendance zone have to find a way to get there.

Nick Nesmith / WABE

The DeKalb County school board said "yes" Monday to a proposal that will give raises to teachers, principals, media specialists, and other employees.

Superintendent Stephen Green drafted the plan after comparing DeKalb’s pay scale to those of surrounding districts.

“We’ve lost candidates because--money’s not everything-- but it is a determining factor, and someone could go next door and say, ‘I’m going to make $15,000 more,’” Green said.

Every teacher will see a pay increase of at least 2 percent. Those with 7 to 17 years of experience will get the biggest raises. 

Nick Nesmith / WABE

DeKalb County teachers could get a pay boost if the school board approves a new salary proposal Monday night.

Under the plan, every teacher would see a pay increase of at least 2 percent. Those with seven to 17 years of experience would get the biggest bump. DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green says the district did its research, and it found out it pays teachers in that experience range thousands less than other Atlanta school systems.

Branden Camp / Associated Press file

Gov. Nathan Deal said Wednesday he won’t launch an independent investigation of Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office. Georgia’s League of Women Voters called for an investigation this week over a massive data leak in October.

The leak occurred when the Secretary of State's office accidentally sent out voters’ driver’s license and Social Security numbers on a CD-ROM to 12 media outlets and political parties. Kemp says all of the CDs were retrieved or destroyed.

Gov. Deal said he's staying out of it.

Pope Francis delivers his message on the occasion of an audience with participants of Rome's diocese convention in St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, June 14, 2015.
Gregorio Borgia / Associated Press

In June, Pope Francis wrote a letter to Catholic bishops, called an encyclical, which stressed the need to address climate change.

The 192-page letter, called "Laudato Si," urges people to take action to protect the planet.

Courtesy of the Atlanta Public Schools

  The Atlanta Public Schools received a $7.5 million grant from the National Institute of Justice to research school safety. But that doesn’t necessarily mean more surveillance cameras and resource officers.  

APS will partner with researchers from Georgia State University and educational nonprofit WestEd to come up with a plan to improve students’ safety. Atlanta Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says that could mean looking at discipline differently:

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders roused supporters at a campaign stop at Atlanta's Fox Theatre on Monday night.
Alison Guillory / WABE

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders made a campaign stop in Atlanta on Monday night. The self-declared Democratic Socialist covered a range of issues.

Introduced onstage at the Fox Theatre by Atlanta rapper Killer Mike, Sanders started with a reference to the Civil Rights Movement headquartered here.

“Dr. (Martin Luther) King was a great leader because he understood a profound truth,” he said. “It was true in his lifetime, true before him and true today, that real change always takes place from the bottom on up, never from the top down.”

Chris Ferguson / WABE

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said he plans to hire a top-tier auditing firm to conduct a review of his office after it accidentally released personal information of more than 6 million registered voters last month.

In a press release, Kemp said he’s in the process of contracting Ernst & Young to complete the investigation.

 In this Sept. 29, 2014 file photo, Secretary of State Brian Kemp announces a March 6, 2012 date, as Georgia's 2012 presidential primary at a news conference in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp took the blame for a data breach that exposed personal information of more than 6 million Georgia voters.

“I take full responsibility for this mistake and have taken immediate action to resolve it,” Kemp said in a statement. “The employee at fault has been fired, and I have put in place additional safeguards effective immediately to ensure this situation does not happen again.”

Nonetheless, Kemp said voters should stay alert for signs of fraud and identity theft.

Michelle Wirth / WABE

Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office says a clerical error is to blame for a data breach that released personal information of more than 6 million Georgia voters.

Each month, Kemp's office releases a voter file to some media outlets and political parties. The files contain basic information, such as names, addresses, race and gender.

But last month, those agencies received more than usual.

6 Million Ga. Voters' Personal Information Released

Nov 18, 2015
 In this Sept. 29, 2014 file photo, Secretary of State Brian Kemp announces a March 6, 2012 date, as Georgia's 2012 presidential primary at a news conference in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp's office says a clerical error is to blame for a data breach that released the personal information of more than 6 million Georgia voters last month.

Two women have filed a lawsuit against Kemp over the breach, and they are seeking class action status.

Kemp's office releases voter information each month, on compact disc, to news outlets and political parties. But October's disc included extra information including birth dates, Social Security numbers and driver’s license numbers.