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American Graduate

This report is part of American Graduate - Let's make it happen - a public media initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to help more kids stay on the path to graduation.

Students in Amy Wozniak's computer science class in Chicago use EarSketch to learn the programming language Python. EarSketch was created by two Georgia Tech professors.
Courtesy of Amy Wozniak

The White House recognized Georgia Tech last Monday for a coding program that uses music to teach code. It was recognized as part of its national initiatives for Computer Science Education Week.

EarSketch is a free online tool that uses music to teach the programming languages of Python and JavaScript.

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.

Oliver Quinlan (cropped) creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode / flickr.com/photos/oliverquinlan/

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

Some 2,500 years ago, Plato said that music "is a more potent instrument than any other for education." On "City Lights," two Atlanta educators made a case for music education in 21st century schools.

Johnny Kauffman / WABE

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

The Civil War can be an emotional issue in the South to this day. The massacre last year at an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina was a painful and tragic reminder. From Confederate flags, to carvings on Stone Mountain, to statues at the Georgia Capitol, the ideological battle still rages.

Al Such / WABE

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

Lisa Hagen / WABE

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

The ninth graders in Bobetta Bailey’s Wednesday health class are milling around the room reviewing facts they’ve learned about sexually transmitted infections.

One wall of the classroom is decorated with bright, colored diagrams of reproductive systems. The fact that Bailey’s class at Cross Keys High School is about more than just those diagrams is a little out of the ordinary.

US Department of Education / flickr.com/departmentofed

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.

Galloway Students Study Science Through Hands-On Art

Mar 25, 2016
Gabbie Watts / WABE

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

In science class at the Galloway School in Buckhead, fifth grader Sophie Orston is making a sculpture of a microorganism.

“I put two bottle caps together, and now I’m putting bubble wrap about it,” she explained. “Then, I am going to put some netting around the bubble wrap”

Alison Guillory / WABE

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

From his early and iconic role as "The Fonz" on "Happy Days" to his late-career peaks on shows like "Arrested Development" and "Children's Hospital," Henry Winkler has been making people laugh with his quick wit. Growing up, however, Winkler found school anything but funny.

Elly Yu / WABE

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

In teacher Yahaira Rosa-Serrano’s first-grade class at Bethesda Elementary School in Lawrenceville, about 20 students are going over Spanish words.

Repeat after me, Rosa-Serrano says. “La Alfombra,” the students reply. They’re sitting in a room where everything from the art on the walls to the classroom rules are in Spanish.

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.

Courtesy of Michelle Duren

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

When Tyler Folks started at Cherokee High School, few expected him to finish.

“I didn’t want to be here,” Folks said. "I didn’t like school. I’d get in trouble, get in fights, didn’t care."

He would get mad at teachers. He was older than others because he was held back in middle school. He has a hard time reading.

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.

Michell Eloy / WABE News

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

About a dozen kids are huddled inside the Brownwood Park Recreation Center in East Atlanta on a rainy afternoon. For about 12 children, ages eight to 11, who are trapped inside after a long day of sitting at school, this would seem like a nightmare scenario.

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.

Jessica Johnson leads her pre-k class in a storytelling exercise.
Kate Sweeney / WABE

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

At Dunbar Learning Complex, literacy education begins young.

Take this group of 22 wiggly four-year-olds, bursting with post-naptime energy. Jessica Johnson has wrangled them into a loose version of a circle to tell a story together.

Courtesy of the DeKalb School of the Arts

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

If the quality of a song or painting is largely subjective, how does one know if a public arts high school is “working?”  WABE’s series on what works in Atlanta-area education turns to the DeKalb School of the Arts to try for an objective assessment.

Arts and Academics

Naomi Daniel and Tiffany Lavenby examine the root of a plant.
Alison Guillory / WABE

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

Researchers say the United States is short on students who are pursuing science, technology, engineering and math careers – the group of subjects known as STEM.

molly samuel / WABE

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

Every day more than 1,200 students go from their regular high schools to the Carroll County College and Career Academy to learn fields as varied as health care, culinary arts, video production, IT and auto mechanics. The hallways feel like a typical high school’s, but behind one door, there’s an auto shop, behind another, an HVAC lab.

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

Georgia students took a new, more rigorous state test last year. Education officials hope raising the testing bar will eventually ensure kids are better prepared for college and careers.

But according to one national expert, it may be tough for Georgia students to know exactly how they stack up.

An Atlanta Public Schools school bus
Alison Guillory / WABE

  Friday on "Closer Look with Rose Scott and Jim Burress":

Gabbie Watts / WABE

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

This past weekend, students from seven different high schools – Grady, North Atlanta, Brookwood, North Gwinett, Union Grove, North Springs and Riverwood – gathered at the High Museum of Art for Art Throwdown.

Myke Johns / WABE

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

Can theater help young school children learn?

The men and women behind the Alliance Theatre certainly think so. In 2011, they began their Theatre for the Very Young program, which not only brings children into the theater, but brings theater -- and all of its benefits -- to them.

Gary Lieberman / WABE

Stephanie Johnson, principal of Maynard Jackson High School, has been named the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals (GAASP) "Principal of the Year." 

Johnson has been principal of Maynard Jackson for four years and is the first Atlanta Public Schools principal to win the award. In September, she will represent Georgia for the National School Principal of the Year award.

The Board of Education of the City Schools of Decatur building is located next to the Beacon Municipal Center.
Tasnim Shamma / WABE

Taxes are getting ready to go up in Decatur, but residents over the age of 65 could get a temporary break from school taxes. 

City of Decatur school board members will discuss the draft resolution at its meeting Tuesday evening.

Last fall, Decatur voters approved a $75 million bond for school construction. This will mean higher property taxes, except for Decatur homeowners over the age of 80 who don't have to pay property taxes.

A Five Year Sunset

John Amis / Associated Press

New scoring rules for the GED high school equivalency test will help hundreds of Georgia adults -- who thought they failed -- earn diplomas.

GED testing officials decided to lower the exam's passing score from 150 to 145 points, effective in March.

"This affects adult education students who have taken the GED test, retroactive a couple of years, so almost 1,900 [Georgia] test-takers,” said Alison Tyrer, a spokesperson for the Technical College System of Georgia, which oversees the state’s GED program.  “It means they can move on to their next goal in life."

David Goldman / AP Photo

Last year, state lawmakers approved Gov. Nathan Deal’s plan to let the state take over some schools the state deemed "chronically failing." Voters will need to approve the measure before it becomes law. They’ll have the chance to do that in November, when the question appears on the ballot.

Some Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation that would change the way the question is worded. It currently reads: “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to allow the state to intervene in chronically failing public schools in order to improve student performance?"

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.

Shannan Muskopf / flickr.com/40964293@N07

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.  

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