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

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News
1:41 pm
Fri April 24, 2015

Ga. Christians, Muslims Come Together To Honor ISIS Victims

Hundreds came out to honor Ethiopians killed by ISIS in Libya.
Alison Guillory WABE

Thursday night, the Ethiopian community in held a candlelight vigil Clarkston, Georgia. The event was in remembrance of Ethiopian Christians killed by ISIS in Libya over the weekend.

Safi Ahmed is Muslim. He’s speaking to the crowd of 200 to 300 people gathered for the vigil. You don’t have to understand Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, to hear the passion in his voice.

Afterwards, he loosely translated his words.

“I was mentioning the way they [were] killed,” he said. “I also mentioned Libya and also, finally, I mentioned South Africa.”

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News
6:00 am
Fri April 24, 2015

Clarkston's Ethiopian Community Honors ISIS Victims

Hundreds of people came out to Clarkston to honor 30 Ethiopian Christians killed by ISIS.
Alison Guillory WABE

The Ethiopian community in Clarkston held a candlelight vigil Thursday night to remember 30 Ethiopian Christians killed by ISIS in Libya. 

Music played as organizers handed out candles to hundreds of people who came to honor those who were murdered last weekend. Attendees, like Tekle Tessema, said Ethiopians everywhere are in mourning.

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Education
4:27 pm
Wed April 22, 2015

Confusion Over State Laws May Be Reason For APS Resentencing

Judge Jerry Baxter may have handed down the wrong sentences to three defendants in the APS test cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Confusion over state laws could be behind a move to reconsider the prison terms of three convicted former educators in the Atlanta cheating trial.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jerry Baxter had sentenced the three to 20 years in prison – to serve seven years in jail and 13 years probation. But that may have been a mistake. WABE legal analyst Page Pate says 20 years is the maximum sentence for violating the state's racketeering law. The defendants were tried under Georgia's conspiracy law.

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Education
11:04 am
Wed April 22, 2015

Judge To Resentence Three Defendants In APS Cheating Trial

Judge Jerry Baxter will resentence three defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial next week.
Credit Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Judge Jerry Baxter will issue new sentences next week to three defendants in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating trial who were convicted of racketeering.

Former administrators Michael Pitts, Sharon Davis-Williams and Tamara Cotman received the harshest penalties of the 10 defendants who were sentenced. They were each sentenced to 20 years in prison, to serve seven and spend 13 years on probation. They were each fined $25,000 and required to complete 2,000 hours of community service.

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Education
4:34 pm
Tue April 21, 2015

Gov. Nathan Deal Signs School Recovery Plan Into Law

Gov. Nathan Deal signs legislation Tuesday 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 next year.
Credit 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.

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Education
7:09 am
Tue April 21, 2015

Some Ga. Parents Are Pulling Their Kids From Milestones Tests

Some parents think the Georgia Milestones test puts too much pressure on students and teachers.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

It’s testing season in Georgia’s public elementary and middle schools. This year, students will take a new test called Georgia Milestones. But, a growing number of parents are choosing not to have their children tested.

In addition to multiple choice questions, the new test asks students to explain their answers in each subject. State education officials say that gives teachers a better idea of how much students are learning.  

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Education
4:00 pm
Fri April 17, 2015

Superintendent Avossa: Leaving Fulton Schools Is 'Bittersweet'

Robert Avossa, left, says he'll miss the Fulton County School District, but he's returning home to Florida.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

The Fulton County School District will soon start searching for a new leader. Superintendent Robert Avossa is leaving to head the Palm Beach County Schools in Florida.

A lot has changed in the Fulton County Schools since Avossa came to the district four years ago. It’s become the state’s largest charter system, high school graduation rates have improved, and Fulton’s SAT scores are now the second highest in the state. So why leave now? Avossa says it was a matter of opportunity.

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Education
6:00 am
Wed April 15, 2015

As Atlanta Cheating Trial Concludes, Officials Focus On Kids

Dr. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., will serve on the board of the new academy.
Credit Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ten former educators were sentenced Tuesday, as the Atlanta test cheating trial came to a close. But as the community tries to heal, some are now turning their attention to the children affected by the scandal.

Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the idea of the Atlanta Redemption Academy. It would provide tutoring for students who are behind because their teachers cheated. Colleen Burns’ daughter is one of those students.

She was held back because she didn’t learn academically at an APS school like she should have,” Burns said.

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Education
6:15 pm
Mon April 13, 2015

APS Judge Tells Defendants: Admit Guilt Or Serve Jail Time

Former APS testing coordinator Donald Bullock spoke on his own behalf. He denied cheating.
Credit Kent Johnson, Pool / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ten former teachers and administrators convicted of racketeering will be sentenced Tuesday instead of Monday. After hearing last-minute witness testimony, Judge Jerry Baxter pushed the sentencing back.

Character witnesses – friends, family members, and co-workers – all lined up and vouched for the defendants and plead for light sentences. Some defendants, like former testing coordinator Donald Bullock, spoke on their own behalf.

“My livelihood is gone,” Bullock said. “My license is gone, all because I told the truth.”

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Education
6:30 am
Mon April 13, 2015

Former APS Educators To Be Sentenced Monday

Judge Jerry Baxter will decide on sentences for 11 former APS educators who have been convicted of racketeering.
Credit Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kent D. Johnson, Pool / Associated Press

Eleven former Atlanta educators will be sentenced Monday, after a jury found them guilty of racketeering and other charges. The ex-teachers and administrators were accused of conspiring to cheat on state tests to earn raises and bonuses.

When the verdict came down, Judge Jerry Baxter acted swiftly. He had 10 of the 11 handcuffed and taken to jail immediately. The defendants and their lawyers seemed stunned. One defense attorney argued there was no "compelling reason" to jail them.  

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Education
6:00 am
Wed April 8, 2015

Several Bills Made It From Ga. Statehouse to the Schoolhouse

Education was a big focus in the 2015 Georgia legislative session.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated Press

    

Georgia’s legislative session wrapped up last week. Several education bills were introduced this year. So which ones made it and which ones didn’t?

You could say this session was a win for Gov. Nathan Deal. Lawmakers passed his school recovery plan and approved a ballot measure asking voters to make it part of the state constitution.

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Education
12:18 pm
Tue April 7, 2015

Ga. Tech's MOOC Master's Degree Program Off To Solid Start

Georgia Tech offers the country's only MOOC-based master's degree in computer science.
Credit William Richardson / flickr.com/gatechjr

A little over a year ago, Georgia Tech launched a first-of-its kind master’s degree in computer science. The program is taught entirely through Massive Open Online Courses, or MOOCs.

Here’s MOOC 101: They’re typically online undergraduate courses offered for free, and students don’t usually earn credit for them.

Through Georgia Tech's program, professors post podcasts of their lectures, and students can ask questions through online forums.

So, how’s it going so far at Georgia Tech?

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Local
6:00 am
Mon April 6, 2015

Survey Aims To Meet Needs Of Atlanta's Latino Community

The survey asks members of metro Atlanta's Latino community what barriers they face on a daily basis.
Credit Ryan Nabulsi/twinlensatl.com / WABE

About one million Latinos live in Georgia. To ensure the community’s needs are being met, the Latin American Association is partnering with Kennesaw State University to develop a survey.

LAA president Jeffrey Tapia says the idea is to find out where people need help.

“We’re looking specifically at areas including barriers to services or advancement, barriers to their own goals, what their needs might be in the areas of learning English and employment,” she says.

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Education
5:17 pm
Fri April 3, 2015

Emory To Offer Financial Aid To Some Undocumented Students

Seniors in the group Freedom at Emory University protested for financial aid last January.
Credit Laura Emiko Soltis / Freedom At Emory University

For the first time, some undocumented students admitted to Emory University will be able to qualify for financial aid.

Starting in the fall, Emory will offer needs-based financial aid for students with federal Deferred Action status. Emory senior Andy Kim co-founded the group Freedom at Emory University, which fought for the change.

“Although it’s an extremely positive step forward, and we’re very happy with the results we’ve had at Emory, it’s still important to note the larger issue at hand,” Kim said.

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Education
6:00 am
Mon March 30, 2015

Day 6 Of Jury Deliberations: Still No Verdict In APS Trial

In the Atlanta test cheating trial, Judge Jerry Baxter reads a question from the jury to attorneys as deliberations continue.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Day six of jury deliberations in the Atlanta test cheating trial begins today. Jurors have been reviewing more than 1,000 pieces of evidence and testimony from more than 160 witnesses.

Last week, Judge Jerry Baxter made a public observation about the jury.

“They look like they’ve been working hard,” Baxter told the court.  

Jurors have been deliberating for more than 30 hours so far. They’re reviewing six months' worth of testimony and evidence. Jurors have had some questions along the way, mostly relating to reviewing documents presented as evidence in the case.

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Education
6:00 am
Thu March 26, 2015

Academic Common Market Offers College Tuition Relief

A program issued by the SREB allows students in 15 Southern states to pay in-state tuition at some out-of-state colleges.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

It’s no secret that college tuition rates are on the rise, but a program available in 15 Southern states has helped some students cut down on their costs.

Imagine you’re in a supermarket. But instead of shopping for food or toothpaste, you’re looking for college degree programs. You want to find one you like at a good price.

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Education
6:00 am
Tue March 24, 2015

Some Metro Atlanta School Districts Begin Digital Learning

Students at Webb Bridge Middle School study for an upcoming science quiz using tablets.
Credit Lillian Govus / Fulton County Schools

There’s no way around it—schools are going digital. A bill in the Georgia Legislature would require public schools to convert to digital textbooks by the year 20-20. Some districts are transitioning to tech-based instruction now. WABE visited a Fulton County school to see how its transition is going. 

Susie McFarlane’s class is busy. They’re working in groups. Each has a different task-- from building food webs to studying biomes. And they’re using technology to help them.

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A Closer Look
12:00 pm
Mon March 23, 2015

Education Secretary Arne Duncan Discusses High School Graduation Rates

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he's encouraged by the recent uptick in high school graduation rates.
Credit Martha Dalton / WABE

The U.S. Department of Education has released new data on high school graduation rates

Georgia’s rate of 71.7 percent rose 4 percent in two years. However, it’s still well below the national average of 81 percent.

Recently, WABE’s Martha Dalton spoke with Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the new numbers. The conversation starts with Duncan’s reaction to the data.

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Education
8:15 pm
Thu March 19, 2015

Judge Tells APS Jury To Read Indictment As Written, Despite Mistake

Judge Jerry Baxter instructed the jury to read the charges against Sharon Davis-Williams as they are written in the indictment.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Jurors in the Atlanta test cheating trial hit a snag today soon after they began deliberating. They were confused by a mistake in the indictment. 

A count against former administrator Sharon Davis-Williams mixes up two different schools where she worked.

The jury asked Judge Jerry Baxter if it should treat the mistake as a clerical error. Prosecutors argued it should. Davis-Williams’ attorney, Teresa Mann, said Baxter should direct the jury to find her “not guilty” because of the state’s mistake.

After hearing from both sides, Baxter instructed the jury.

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Education
7:08 am
Thu March 19, 2015

APS Cheating Trial Now Goes To Jury

Fulton County Senior Assistant District Attorney Clint Rucker told the jury the case isn't about race or politics, but children who didn't get the help they needed.
Credit Kent Johnson / The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Closing arguments in the Atlanta test cheating trial ended yesterday. Twelve former educators face up to 20 years in prison for allegedly conspiring to cheat on state tests.

Defense attorneys questioned the credibility of some witnesses who said they saw defendants cheat. Some of those witnesses were indicted in the case, but struck plea deals. Attorney Gerald Griggs, who represents former administrator Angela Williamson, said the witnesses who testified against his client couldn’t keep their stories straight.

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Education
4:57 pm
Tue March 17, 2015

Defense Attorneys Push Back During APS Closing Arguments

Attorney Scott Smith defends client Theresia Copeland, a former testing coordinator.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After hearing from prosecutors yesterday, the defense attorneys made their closing arguments today in the Atlanta test cheating trial. A dozen former teachers and administrators face up to 20 years in prison for charges including racketeering and making false statements.

Prosecuting attorneys argued Monday the former educators conspired to cheat to boost test scores and get bonuses. Tuesday, the defense attorneys fought back.

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Education
9:51 am
Tue March 17, 2015

Georgia's College Tuition Rates Keep Climbing

Analysts say private and public colleges raise tuition rates for different reasons.
Credit John Amis / Associated Press

Since 2007, tuition in Georgia’s university system has increased 88 percent. But why are costs so much higher each year, and where is that money going? 

Private and public colleges raise rates for different reasons. Thomas Weko, a managing researcher at the American Institutes for Research, says public universities are getting less money from state governments. 

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Education
5:44 pm
Mon March 16, 2015

Jury Hears Closing Arguments In Atlanta Cheating Trial

Prosecutor John Floyd, who argued on the state's behalf, said there was a system-wide plot to change answers.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

After six months of testimony, jurors heard closing arguments Monday in the Atlanta test cheating trial. Twelve former teachers and administrators face up to 20 years in prison for charges including racketeering and making false statements and writings.

State attorneys are trying to convince the jury the defendants conspired to cheat. That’s different than proving cheating happened. Prosecutor John Floyd, who argued on the state's behalf, said there was a system-wide plot to change answers on the 2009 Criterion Referenced Competency Test.

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APS Trial
11:58 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Atlanta Test Cheating Trial Attorneys Begin Closing Arguments

Attorneys began closing arguments Monday morning in the Atlanta test cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Attorneys began closing arguments Monday morning in the Atlanta test cheating trial.

Twelve former APS educators face up to 20 years in prison for charges including racketeering and making false statements. Jurors have listened to six months of testimony, and now state attorneys are trying to convince them former educators conspired to cheat.

Fulton County prosecutor Clint Rucker argued cheating was systemic. He said teachers who changed students’ tests answers on the 2009 Criterion Referenced Competency Test corrupted students’ minds and spirits.

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Education
6:00 am
Mon March 16, 2015

Closing Arguments Begin In Atlanta Cheating Trial

Judge Jerry Baxter has been presiding over the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating trial.
Credit Kent Johnson / Atlanta Journal-Constitution

For six months, attorneys have presented testimony and evidence in the Atlanta Public Schools test cheating trial. Monday, closing arguments begin. Twelve former teachers and administrators face up to 20 years in prison for racketeering and other charges.

The state has been trying to prove a conspiracy to cheat and boost test scores in an effort to get cash bonuses. That’s what Fulton County Assistant District Attorney Fani Willis argued when the trial began.

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Education
5:30 pm
Thu March 12, 2015

Fulton County To Offer New Teachers Signing Bonuses

The bonuses will range from $1000 to $2500.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

Metro Atlanta school systems will soon start recruiting new teachers for the upcoming school year. But districts will face stiff competition from the Fulton County Schools, which is offering new teachers signing bonuses.

If you’re a teacher looking for a job, it may seem like a no-brainer to go with the district offering bonuses. But Fulton County doesn’t make it easy for prospective teachers.

“They engage with what we call a 'new teacher selector,'” Ron Wade, Fulton Schools’ chief talent officer, says.

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Education
6:00 am
Thu March 12, 2015

Georgia Senate Passes Resolution Challenging AP US History Exam

In this file photo, Sen. William Ligon looks over paperwork at his desk on the Senate floor on March 27, 2012, in Atlanta.
Credit David Goldman / Associated Press

The Georgia Senate passed a resolution Wednesday urging state officials to get into the test-making business.

The Republican National Committee called the changes to the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam “a radically revisionist view of American history” when the issue surfaced earlier this year. 

Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, said they want a new test.

“We’re encouraging our governor and the state board of education to work with other states to promote an alternative program to the Advanced Placement history class,” Ligon told the Senate.

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Education
4:00 pm
Tue March 10, 2015

Sikh Coalition Says Gwinnett's Bullying Response Is 'Inadequate'

A student who was bullied on a Gwinnett County school bus filmed the incident and the video went viral.
Credit Toby Talbot / Associated Press

A Gwinnett County student of the Sikh faith, which originated in India’s Punjab region, was bullied on the bus recently. The student caught the incident on his phone.

The student is wearing a turban in the video. He filmed himself and some kids behind him. It’s hard to understand most of what the kids are saying, but it’s not hard to understand when one student calls him a "terrorist."

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Education
9:42 am
Tue March 10, 2015

Sen. Johnny Isakson Wants To Cut FAFSA Form Down To Two Questions

Sen. Johnny Isakson is sponsoring a bill that would cut the form down to two questions: How big is your family and what was their income two years ago?
Credit Charles Dharapak / Associated Press

In Georgia, $82 million in federal student aid was left on the table last year. Experts say that’s because the application to get the money is too long. Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., wants to change that.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA is the form colleges use to decide on student aid.

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Education
6:00 am
Mon March 9, 2015

Kids Are Learning To Be 'Kind,' 'Respectful' In Ga. Schools' Behavior Intervention Program

Third grader Ian Price says his parents are proud of what he's accomplished through PBIS.
Brenna Beech WABE

Georgia has one of the highest school suspension rates in the country.

But, it is dropping. To shrink the number further, some state officials are pushing a program that has helped reduce discipline problems nationwide.

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