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Georgia schools

2015 had the highest reported youth suicides in the past five years.
Martha Dalton / WABE

Eighteen children in Georgia have killed themselves this year. And state officials are working to stop and prevent those suicides.

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The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Fatality Review Program teamed up with state education and health officials to create a new training program for school personnel.

The program focuses on teaching educators warning signs in students and figuring out way to get the issue of suicide out in the open at their schools.

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods in his office at the state Capitol, Feb. 13, 2015.
Alison Guillory / WABE

Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods plans to run for another term.

 

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Woods, a Republican, made the announcement in a video Wednesday.

 

The former teacher and administrator in Irwin County won the election in  2014, promising independence from education standards set by the federal government.

 

Martha Dalton / WABE

Schools in impoverished areas face enormous challenges. Kids often come to school hungry, tired or troubled. Now, Georgia lawmakers are trying to address some of those issues through a new plan to turn those schools around.

A new bill would target schools on a list published yearly by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. One of the lowest-performing schools on this year’s list is DeKalb County’s Flat Shoal’s Elementary School, which is trying to meet the needs of its impoverished student population.

‘They Come With Baggage’

David Goldman / Associated Press

Gov. Nathan Deal is asking Georgia lawmakers to support a new plan for fixing low-performing schools after voters last fall rejected a proposal for state takeovers of schools that consistently struggle.

The Republican governor said in his State of the State speech Wednesday that nearly 89,000 students were stuck in failing schools last year and their number "will grow with each passing school year" if nothing is done.

Deal says he's working with legislative leaders on a bill for lawmakers to consider this year. He offered no specifics of the new turnaround plan.

Martha Dalton / WABE

The Southern Poverty Law Center counted 437 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation since last week's election. There have been some cases reported in Georgia schools too.

The Gwinnett County school district is investigating a note sent to a Muslim teacher, telling her to hang herself with her head scarf. A DeKalb County teacher was removed from her school last week for allegedly insulting undocumented immigrants.

Graduates line up before the ceremony at South High School, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007, in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak / Associated Press

State data show Georgia's high school graduation rate ticked up to 79.2 percent last year. That’s an increase of 0.4 percent. But some typically low-performing schools saw big improvements. Cross Keys High School, in DeKalb County, saw an 18-point jump, reaching nearly 74 percent in 2016. Fulton County’s Banneker High School saw an increase of almost 6 percent. Atlanta’s B.E.S.T.

Graduates line up before the ceremony at South High School, Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007, in Cleveland.
Tony Dejak / Associated Press

Georgia’s high school graduation rate has increased the past few years. But new data from the National Center for Education Statistics show the state’s high school dropout rate is above the national average.

It’s important to note these two numbers do not have an inverse relationship. For example, Georgia’s high school graduation rate for 2013 was about 72 percent. That did not mean its dropout rate that year was 28 percent.

Al Such / WABE

Former Atlanta Mayor and U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young joined the growing chorus of voices opposing Gov. Nathan Deal’s proposed school takeover. The plan would let the state manage some low-performing schools. On Tuesday, Young held a press conference with Atlanta baseball legend Hank Aaron and Georgia PTA President Lisa-Marie Haygood.

Proponents of the so-called “Opportunity School District” say some schools are struggling so much that the state has to step in. Deal said recently that impoverished communities, where most of the 127 schools are located, don’t have a voice.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Gov. Nathan Deal has put together a group of 90 teachers across the state to weigh in on recommendations on how to reform the state's education system as part of an advisory committee.

A special commission Deal appointed last year made recommendations, but critics said they didn’t include enough input from teachers.  

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal waits to deliver his State of the State address on the House floor at the Capitol Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Atlanta.
David Goldman / Associated Press

Georgia's education system could see some dramatic changes in the next two years, as Gov. Nathan Deal shifts his first-term focus on prisons and courts to education.

Voters will decide in November whether to approve Deal's proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to take over chronically failing schools. The state's education and teacher organizations oppose the amendment and are gearing up for a fight.

Martha Dalton / WABE

It’s a safe bet that most teachers don’t enter the profession to get wealthy. Still, some school districts have tried to entice teachers to take hard-to-fill jobs by offering financial incentives.  

For example, the Fulton County Schools offered signing bonuses this year to teachers willing to work in "critical needs" areas. Those include math, science, special education and foreign language teaching jobs, as well as positions in schools with low-income populations.

But it’s unclear whether that approach is an effective long-term solution.

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.

Théo / flickr.com

Georgia's teacher advocacy groups are gearing up for two big fights next year.

The first fight is over the reform of how schools get money from the state.

That plan will likely come from Gov. Nathan Deal and would need to go through the state legislature.

Educators are worried Deal's plan, which likely will include merit-based pay, would make it harder to attract and keep teachers.

The second fight: a plan that, if approved by voters, would allow the state to take over chronically low-performing schools.

Alan Diaz / Associated Press

A report from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows an overwhelming majority of Georgia high schools and middle schools aren't teaching all of the agency's recommended sex education topics.

The report, conducted during the 2013-2014 school year and released Wednesday, says Georgia's high schools performed better than most states on the majority of the 16 recommended topics.

Chris Ferguson / WABE

Georgia voters say the state is spending enough money on students, but it needs to use the funds more efficiently. That's according to a new poll from the Foundation for Excellence in Education. 

Georgia spends just over $9,000 per student. Ryan Mahoney, the foundation's southeast regional advocacy director, said almost half of those surveyed said that number is fine.

Shannan Muskopf / flickr.com/40964293@N07

 

Fewer than 39 percent of Georgia students in each grade level tested last year were proficient or better in English language arts or math.

The statewide figures released Thursday are the first results of Georgia's new tests. Similar levels of students in each grade level scored proficient or better in science and social studies.

Students in third through 12th grade took the "Georgia Milestones" test this spring.

Ga.'s Lack Of Graduates Threatens Economy, Says Report

Aug 11, 2015
Policy analyst Melissa Jonson discusses on the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute Report and the 866,000 Georgians that do not have a high school diploma.
Brenna Beech / WABE

More than 850,000 adults in Georgia do not have a high school diploma or its equivalent, a GED, according to the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, or GBPI. The agency has released a new report on the problem and how to help more adults get a diploma.

Georgia Budget and Policy Institute analyst Melissa Johnson said during an interview on “A Closer Look” that the numbers are alarming.

“We have the ninth highest rate [in the U.S.] of adults without a high school diploma or GED between the ages of 18 and 64,” she said. 

Georgia School Systems To Decide On Operating Models

May 7, 2015
APS headquarters
Nick Nesmith / WABE

  

  

All Georgia school systems face a deadline next month. They have to decide how they want to run their schools, and they get three choices from the state.

The first choice for school systems is the "status quo," which means they have to follow all state mandates unless there are extenuating circumstances like a natural disaster. So far, only the Burke County school system has decided to do so.

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

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill Tuesday that would let the state step in and help underperforming schools if voters approve the measure in 2016.

The legislation would create a state-run school district to manage low-performing schools. Deal said 139 Georgia schools currently qualify.

  “For those who fail and drop out of our schools, they become the fodder for our state prison system, where almost 70 percent of our inmates dropped out of school themselves,” Deal said.

Schoolbus dropoff APS
Bruno Girin / flickr.com/brunogirin

Several Democrats in Georgia’s Senate released an education plan Tuesday aimed at helping struggling schools in poverty. The plan is supposed to be an alternative to a state takeover proposal for failing schools released by Gov. Nathan Deal last week.

Senate Democrats want to turn poor schools that are low achieving into “community schools.”