This has been a year of dreary economic news. When incomes fall and vacant housing increases, that takes a chunk out of state and local tax revenue. Since many states are required by law to balance their budgets, that means that the money has to come from somewhere. Education being a big chunk of the average state budget, any program that is seen as optional (and some that aren't) will get a look.
And so, I'm starting to see headlines about gifted programs being restructured and the like. In Prince George's County, Maryland, school officials are looking at combining some programs and schools. If there is talk of restructuring in your district, please let me know, as I'm trying to make a list.
I have two thoughts about this. As long time readers of this blog know, I have no particular fondness for the "pull out" programs that are labeled by many districts as gifted education. Kids leave their normal classrooms for 90 minutes or so a week to do enrichment activities like studying bugs or Robin Hood, or the culture of Japan, or go on special field trips, etc. You do not have to be gifted to learn about these things, and such programs tend to breed resentment. Plus, while they give gifted kids a social outlet and are always fun, they don't give gifted kids what they really need -- which is academic work that challenges them to the extent of their abilities.
Of course, the problem is that when schools cut these pull-out programs, they tend not to implement the far more effective alternatives, which are either self-contained magnet gifted schools, if your district is big enough, or acceleration (subject matter or whole grade) or some combo of both. Acceleration is effective and costs absolutely nothing. It's also routinely disparaged in districts that should know better. I heard recently from the family of a 4-year-old who wanted to start kindergarten because he was already reading. No dice. If the family had wanted to hold the child back until he was 6, though, so he'd be bigger and better at sports and handwriting and all that good stuff, the district would have had no problem with that. Magnet gifted schools are no more expensive than other magnet schools if you keep the pupil teacher ratio at the same level as other district schools. Kids can be accelerated within such self-contained schools if necessary.
Unfortunately, neither of these ideas are being broadly implemented. It's a missed opportunity. Tough economic times can spur people to re-examine old ways of doing things, but it's never easy.