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Education

Courtesy of DeKalb County Schools

It's been a year since the DeKalb County Schools hired Dr. R. Stephen Green to lead Georgia's third-largest school system.

Green hailed from the Kansas City, Missouri, schools, which went through accreditation problems similar to DeKalb's. DeKalb became fully accredited in February, after serious sanctions from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools due to poor management and governance.

Recently, Green sat down with WABE's Martha Dalton to talk about his first year as DeKalb's schools chief and his plans for this year.

PBA30

Stabilizing Atlanta neighborhoods will play a key role in turning some schools around, according to Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

Carstarphen spoke to reporters at a media roundtable. She touted the district's school turnaround plan, which targets the district's lowest-performing schools. The plan includes merging some schools, closing others and offering wrap-around services to families, like community health clinics on school campuses. 

Ted S. Warren / Associated Press

In response to unsafe lead levels in the water supply in Flint, Michigan, the Atlanta Public Schools decided to test its water sources for lead. The district has received about half the results. So far, most sources have tested within acceptable levels established by the Environmental Protection Agency. Sources with lead levels above the federal limit are taken out of commission.

“We immediately move that area from any kind of public consumption,” said Pat St. Claire, Atlanta Public Schools' executive director of communications.

Pokemon Go at Oakland
Kyra Semien

Since last week, several museums and cemeteries in Atlanta have noticed large crowds of teenagers and young adults showing up.

Most aren't there primarily to learn about history or to pay their respects to the dead, but swiping their phones while they play a game on it.

Pokemon Go is a mobile app that requires players to physically visit sites to catch fictional creatures called Pokemon and uses a technology called augmented reality, where images and sounds are added to what you see in front of you.

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.

A foundation run by the heirs of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton has announced a $250 million initiative to support charter schools in 17 cities across the U.S.

The Walton Family Foundation on Tuesday announced its Building Equity Initiative aimed at helping charter schools establish and expand facilities. The foundation says it will initially focus on urban areas but will expand to help public charter schools serve at least 250,000 more students by 2027.

Atlanta Public Schools Police Chief Ronald Applin stands in front of officers in the newly formed Atlanta Public Schools Police Department.
Alison Guillory / WABE

Atlanta Public Schools now has its own police force. A new chief of police and 67 officers were sworn in Thursday night at the Center for Learning & Leadership. 

These new officers will act as the school district's school resource officers and replace members of the Atlanta Police Department in the city's middle and high schools starting July 1. 

APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said these are sworn police officers, but they'll also teach and counsel students.

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.

Courtesy of Emory University

Starting in September, Emory University welcomes its first female president, Claire Sterk. She served as Emory’s provost since 2013.

She succeeds Jim Wagner, who has been Emory’s president for 13 years.

When she was being interviewed to be Emory’s new president, Sterk repeatedly brought up a novel idea.

She wants the university to strike a memo of understanding with the city of Atlanta to work on issues critical to the city’s needs.

Cobb County schools will build a new $29.9 million College and Career Academy in Marietta.

The academy will primarily target students who want to graduate from high school to a job, but Cobb County School Board Vice Chair David Chastain said it won't be your average vocational technical school of decades past.

"It's not just learning to use a skillsaw and making a cutting board that looks like a rooster or something,” Chastain said. “This is working with technology, maybe even learning coding."

Rogelio V. Soli / associated press file

The government is out with discouraging new figures on how many students are habitually missing school — and an AP analysis finds the problem is particularly acute in Washington, D.C., where nearly a third of students in the nation's capital were absent 15 days or more in a single school year.

Washington state and Alaska weren't that far behind, with absentee rates hovering around a quarter of students with that level of absences.

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.

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.

GSU Winter 2015
Alison Guillory / WABE

In early May, Georgia State University announced its plans to form a College of the Arts separate from the current College of Arts and Sciences. The new college's founding dean, Dr. Wade Weast, is a musician by training who has earned three degrees in trumpet performance and who spent the first years of his career gigging and teaching.

Though the decision to form an independent arts college was made before his arrival at GSU, Weast discussed the reasoning behind the move with Lois Reitzes on "City Lights." 

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.

The University System of Georgia has named interim presidents for Valdosta State University and South Georgia State College.

Officials said in a release Monday that Kelli Brown will serve as interim president of Valdosta State. Brown currently serves as provost and vice president for academic affairs at Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville.

Officials say Brown will begin in her new role on June 1 and replaces interim president Cecil Staton.

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.

Tech Square Labs Rodney Sampson
Al Such / WABE

For African-Americans looking to succeed in the tech industry, success involves much more than just having the technical skills. It can be an uphill battle, especially if you're poor.  

An Experiment

At Tech Square Labs in Midtown Atlanta, you’ll find glass walls and high ceilings. It follows the typical design trends of today’s “hip” innovation centers and co-working office spaces. 

David Goldman / Associated Press

The Georgia Department of Education wants feedback on its latest proposed social studies standards.

If this sounds familiar, it's because this is actually the third edition of the standards, which, when approved, will determine what shows up on students' tests in the 2017 school year.

The previous editions had been revised, respectively, after a wave of public comment and after disagreement from teachers on the state’s social studies review committee.

Georgia State University
Catherine Mullins / WABE

Georgia State University is moving some of its more creative departments out of the College of Arts and Sciences into a brand new College of the Arts next summer.

The founding dean, Wade Weast, was hired last year to bring more attention to the arts and create a dedicated college, separate from the College of Arts and Sciences.

Ricky Romero (cropped, color adjusted) creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode / flickr.com/photos/rickyromero/

Thousands of low-income students in nearly two dozen states will soon be able to get federal grants to take college courses while still in high school, part of a program the Obama administration plans to begin this summer.

The experimental program allows high school kids to apply for federal Pell grant money to pay for college courses. The "dual enrollment" program is designed to help students from lower-income backgrounds.

The Education Department says the administration will invest about $20 million in the 2016-17 school year to help about 10,000 students.

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