By Steve Dolinger

Steve Dolinger

Throughout 2014, there seemed to be one topic that dominated education: Common Core. Public hearings were held about it. Legislation was introduced (and defeated) about it. Ultimately, Georgia’s State Board of Education did a thorough review of the standards, and the board is recommending minor changes. If you based your opinions only on headlines, you would conclude the Common Core was all that happened in education in 2014.

However, there was much more. Georgia completed a $400 million Race to the Top (RT3) grant. RT3 was the culmination of four years of implementing a vision to transform public education in Georgia so that every student who graduated from high school was successful in college and/or their chosen career, and was competitive with their peers throughout the country and the world.

In support of this work, throughout 2014, Georgia educators continued to implement higher standards and data systems that support instruction. District and state leaders worked to change how to recruit and reward effective teachers and principals. Georgia also has been focused on turning around our lowest performing schools. In addition to these changes, the state has been working across the entire education pipeline, beginning with early learning and ending with increasing the number of postsecondary graduates.

For more than a decade, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education has published annually the Top Ten Issues to Watch. Anticipated by legislators, educators and advocates alike, the Top Ten provides a non-partisan discussion of education issues facing Georgia. Looking forward into the new year, many of the issues in the 2015 edition of the report are results of the work that occurred under RT3, such as higher standards, new assessments, and increasing the quality of early learning experiences.

However, now that RT3 is coming to an end, Georgia must look forward in 2015 to what is next: New governance structures, equity in the classroom, charter schools, post-secondary completion, and funding. Gov. Nathan Deal is likely to pursue K-12 funding reform during the upcoming legislative session. Legislation will most likely be introduced for a constitutional amendment changing how the state elects and appoints the state school superintendent and state school board members.

All school districts must decide if they want to be a charter system, “IE2 district,” or remain a traditional school district. Teachers and principals across the state will be using the new teacher and leader evaluation system, and student growth scores will monitor student learning based on the new Georgia Milestones assessments, which replace the old CRCTs in grades 3-8 and end-of-course tests in high school.

There is a lot happening in education right now. Not just the Common Core. If Georgia is to be successful as a state, educators, parents, business and community leaders must come together with a common understanding of where we have been and where we are going. The Top Ten Issues to Watch is a resource to help inform the discussion. Together, we can help build the next chapter in education reform in Georgia.

Dr. Steve Dolinger is the president of the non-partisan Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, Before joining the partnership in 2002 he served as Fulton County superintendent of schools for seven years.

Top issues

Every year, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education
publishes its list of the Top Ten issues in Georgia education. Here’s the 2015 list.
For more, go to

1. High standards —The value of a high school diploma

2. Assessments — How much is too much?

3. District governance — Charter systems, IE2 or the status quo?

4. To elect or appoint? —The question regarding the state school superintendent

5. Funding reform — How do we divide the pie?

6. Early learning — Challenge accepted

7. Postsecondary success —The key to Georgia’s workforce

8. Charter schools —New challenges

9. Equity in education —Access and opportunity

10. Race to the Top —Now what?