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

Attorney General Sam Olens speaks during a news conference announcing a new campaign targeting sex trafficking, Monday, March 18, 2013, in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

The Georgia Board of Regents Wednesday approved the appointment of Attorney General Sam Olens as the new president of Kennesaw State University. Regent Larry Walker abstained from the vote because of a business conflict, but the rest of the board members agreed Olens should be KSU’s next leader.

That didn’t sit well with some in attendance, like Christine Ziegler. She’s a KSU psychology professor and Georgia representative for the American Association of University Professors.


A group calling itself “Morehouse Alumni,” has launched an online petition asking the Board of Trustees to oust the school's president. The document says Morehouse is in “great turmoil,” and blames President John Wilson Jr.'s  administration for alienating alumni, a drop in enrollment and poor fundraising efforts.


If voters approve Gov. Nathan Deal’s school takeover plan next month, it would break some new legal ground. That came up in a panel discussion on the proposal at Georgia State University’s College of Law Monday.

The plan, also called Amendment One, would let the state take over some low-performing schools. That would mean a shift of governance, according to Tanya Washington, an education law professor at Georgia State University.

Martha Dalton / WABE

In her State of the District address Friday, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said students in the Atlanta Public Schools have made gains, but there’s still room for improvement. Some students helped deliver part of her message through hip-hop and rap music. They entered the auditorium at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School singing "My Shot" from the Broadway musical "Hamilton." 

The theme of Carstarphen's address was “transformation.” That’s what she said she was hired to do: transform APS into a successful district. And she admitted it hasn't been easy.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Money is a big sticking point in the battle over Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed school takeover plan. Voters will be asked next month whether the state should be able to step in and run schools it considers “chronically failing.” The plan involves moving some tax dollars from local school districts to the state.

The proposal would create an “Opportunity School District,” a statewide school system made up exclusively of low-performing schools. All the money those schools get — in local, state and federal dollars — would shift to the new state-run district.

Elly Yu / WABE

The Coweta County district attorney announced this week he will not pursue charges in the Taser-related death of Chase Sherman. But Sherman’s family members say they still want justice for him.

Sherman began behaving erratically while driving with his family from Atlanta to their home in Florida. Unable to calm him, his family called 911.

Previously released dashboard videos show two sheriff’s deputies and a medical technician using a Taser and sitting on Sherman. L. Chris Stewart, an attorney for the family, says the responders went too far.

Martha Dalton / WABE

When Georgia voters head to the polls next month, in addition to picking their choice for president and U.S. Senate, they’ll be asked to vote on a measure called “Amendment One.” The proposal is also known as Gov. Nathan Deal’s school takeover plan. It would create an Opportunity School District to manage schools the state deems “chronically failing.”

But opposition to the proposal has been steadily growing. Those who are against the plan say it would interfere with local control of schools.

What Is A ‘Failing’ School?

Georgia State University
Catherine Mullins / WABE

The first step in the federal financial aid process is filling out a lengthy form called the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” or FAFSA. Personal finance website NerdWallet studied FAFSA completion rates in each state last year. The site found 46 percent of Georgia high school graduates didn’t complete the form, meaning $80 million in aid went unused.

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

Each year, 20,000-30,000 Georgia public college students drop out because they can't pay tuition. Some business and community leaders in Atlanta are concerned such a high dropout rate could affect economic development.

Georgia wants to increase college graduation by about 14 percent in the next four years. But some business leaders are concerned that won't happen unless something is done to help students afford school. 

Georgia’s HOPE program is merit-based. That means it depends on academic performance, not financial need. 

A school bus in front of the Georgia Capitol
Alison Guillory / WABE

The Professional Association of Georgia Educators held a community meeting in Conyers Thursday night to discuss an upcoming ballot measure. Amendment One would let the state take over schools it considers “chronically failing.” About 60 people, mostly residents of Newton and Rockdale counties, filled the Discover Point Church.

Most who attended the meeting seemed to oppose the plan, saying it would weaken communities’ control over local schools.

The amendment's supporters say local communities would have input on schools the state takes over.

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

According to a new report from and New America, sending your child to a daycare center for a year in Georgia costs, on average, more than one year of in-state tuition at a public college.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Feeling accepted at college can be a big issue — especially for minority students. Even on campuses with high minority populations, it’s easy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students to feel isolated. That’s why The Human Rights Campaign is urging inclusiveness of LGBTQ students at historically black colleges and universities.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Opposition to Gov. Nathan Deal's school takeover plan continues to grow.

The DeKalb County school board voted Monday to urge its residents to vote "no" on the ballot measure.  The 5-1 decision makes DeKalb the largest school district, so far, to take a stand against the ballot measure.

Deal’s proposed Opportunity School District would create a state-run school system that would manage so-called “chronically failing” schools, or schools that earn an “F” for three consecutive years on the state’s report card.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Some school-aged children count down the minutes until recess. But climbing across the monkey bars and going down the slide can be tough for kids with disabilities. That’s why Atlanta Public Schools kindergarten teacher Emily Max wanted to build an “inclusive” playground at her school, Toomer Elementary School.

Max developed the playground for a graduate school assignment. The task was to look at the world through the lens of someone with a disability and develop a project that would make a difference. Max focused on the school's social hub: the playground.

The new center is housed in a former elementary school in Washington Park.
Alison Guillory / WABE

One of Georgia’s largest family services agencies returned to its roots Thursday.

Families First, a nonprofit organization that provides adoption, foster care and mental health services, moved its headquarters from Midtown Atlanta to a new, $13 million facility in Washington Park. The organization was Georgia’s first licensed adoption agency when it first opened its doors on the campus of Spelman College in 1890.

The federal education law replacing No Child Left Behind requires each state to submit a long-term plan to address issues like testing, accountability, and help for struggling students. More than 200 people came to a meeting in Fulton County Wednesday night to give input on Georgia’s proposal. The gathering was one of eight being held around the state.

Fulton County school board member Katie Reeves said Georgia’s plan should give schools the authority to make some decisions.

Some Georgia voters will receive absentee ballots next week, marking the start of the fall election season. One of the issues before them will be a measure called Amendment One. The ballot question asks whether the Georgia Constitution should be changed to allow the state to take over so-called “chronically failing” schools. That would include any public school that scored an F on the state’s report card for three consecutive years.

deepcove / Pixabay

The DeKalb County School District says it will test all of its water sources for lead. Officials say it’s a proactive move and wasn’t prompted by an incident in the school system. DeKalb Superintendent Stephen Green said the district had been conducting random tests, but lately administrators questioned that approach.

An Atlanta Public Schools school bus
Alison Guillory / WABE

This story has been updated with APS response on Sept. 16, 2016 at 2:27 p.m.

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

According to a new report from the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, Georgia’s HOPE scholarship is working well for some college students, but there are many more who need financial aid and aren’t getting it. The report found about a third of Georgia's public college students receive HOPE or Zell Miller scholarships. Out of the recipients, 30 percent are from low-income homes and 41 percent are from middle-income families.

Drew Senior Academy students in front of the Charles R. Drew Charter School Junior & Senior Academy
Courtesy of East Lake Foundation

The Atlanta Public Schools began this year with a new turnaround plan for some of its low-performing schools. But at a school board meeting Tuesday night, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen admitted APS has to overcome some big hurdles for the plan to succeed.

The initiative involves merging some schools, closing others, putting health clinics on a few campuses, creating science and technology academies, and hiring extra tutors. Despite the additional resources, Carstarphen said it will take a tremendous amount of effort to see improvement in student performance.

Martha Dalton / WABE

Throughout Venezuela, people took to the streets Thursday, protesting the dire economic conditions there and demanding a recall of the country’s socialist president. Venezuelan nationals living all over the U.S. held matching protests. A group called “Venezuelans in Georgia” organized one in downtown Atlanta.

Demonstrators chanted, sang, and gave testimonials about the drastic shortage of supplies that’s devastating Venezuela. They wanted to show support for friends and family back home and raise awareness about the economic crisis.

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

If you’re planning to vote in the November presidential election, but it’s been awhile since you’ve cast a ballot, you may want to check to make sure you’re still registered.

Most states, including Georgia, conduct what’s called “list maintenance” with voter registrations. If a county is contacted by the U.S. Postal Service about a voter's address change, that person is contacted. If he doesn’t respond in 30 days, he becomes “inactive.” The same is true for voters who have not voted for three consecutive years. They will also be asked to confirm residency.

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

In November, voters will decide whether the state should be able to take over schools it considers “chronically failing.”

Gov. Nathan Deal championed the proposal, which is based on similar plans in Louisiana and Tennessee. But some local school boards are making it clear they’re not OK  with the possibility of losing control of their schools.

Martha Dalton / WABE

As U.S. immigrant populations have grown, some education experts say schools have had a hard time figuring out which students need help learning English. Many school districts rely on a Home Language Survey to decide whether a student should be tested for special classes for English Speakers of Other Languages, or ESOL. But some parents in the Atlanta area say that screening process has meant their children, who speak fluent English, have been unnecessarily targeted. 

A Surprising Start

A sign marks the entrance to a gender neutral restroom at the University of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., Thursday, Aug. 23, 2007.
Toby Talbot / Associated Press

Georgia is one of 13 states trying to stop a directive from the Obama Administration regarding transgender students.

Last spring, the U.S. Education and Justice Departments issued guidance for schools saying, among other things, transgender students must be allowed to use restrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identities. Schools that don’t comply risk losing federal dollars.

Brenna Beech / WABE

Georgia’s lottery-funded HOPE scholarship program has struggled to keep up with demand in recent years. Now, a new report says HOPE could run out of money by the time today’s pre-kindergarten students are in college. The study was issued by a group  of private businesses, called The Committee to Preserve HOPE Scholarships. It says the program could run a deficit by the year 2028.

Niranjan Shrestha / Associated Press file

A coalition of LGBT advocacy groups wants to make sure transgender students are treated fairly in Georgia schools. So, it’s developed an online resource called the “Transgender Students Rights Watch.”

It’s an online tool that lets students report incidents of discrimination and get free legal advice. Everyone who uses the site will get a response.

Martha Dalton / WABE

School started this week for some students in the Atlanta area. Students in Gwinnett, Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb counties will head back to campus Monday.

To get the word out Friday morning, DeKalb Schools Superintendent Stephen Green hit the streets ... and the sidewalks.

Green conducted what he calls a “Knock, Walk, and Talk.”

He walked up to residents’ doors, knocked and then talked.

Emory University drug development groups are working to find a treatment for those infected by the Zika virus.
Ricardo Mazalan / Associated Press

The Hope Clinic of the Emory Vaccine Center is one of three U.S. sites conducting a clinical trial for a new Zika vaccine.

"It's a DNA vaccine that encodes two proteins of the Zika virus, and it'll be tested in four different groups of human volunteers,” says Dr. Sri Edupuganti, an infectious disease physician and medical director of the Hope Clinic.

The trial is in its first phase, which will focus on the vaccine's safety and see whether humans develop an immune response to the virus.