A Ghoulish Gifted Halloween Tale (and It’s all Frighteningly True…)
It’s official. Service levels for gifted students have dropped to a new low. In the 2010/2011 school year, Ohio districts served approximately 52,470 gifted students. The figures just released for 2011/2012 show a decrease of almost 5% to 49,947 students. In fact, since the 2008/2009 school year, which was the last year Ohio saw a stable and coherent funding system for gifted students, service levels have dropped by almost 35%. That year, 76,440 gifted students were served. Ohio now serves less than 19% of the total identified gifted student population – a statistic that is artificially high as districts are also identifying fewer gifted students as well. In school year 2008/2009, districts identified 280,720 students as gifted. That figure is now down to 263,688 a drop of 6% with over half of that drop from 2010/2011 to 2011/2012. This would make sense if the number of students overall was decreasing, but in fact the number of students attending school districts increased in the last school year.
While these numbers are certainly not encouraging, when we actually view this from a historical perspective, they are downright frightening. Ohio districts provide service to fewer than half the gifted students in 2012 that were provided in 1999. In that year, 103,087 gifted students were served – and this was based on criteria that were far more restrictive than the flexible methods of service that can be counted today. If we want to go a bit further back, say 20 years, 86, 592 gifted students were served.
So here’s the scary situation faced by gifted children and their families in Ohio: While the number of districts labeled as “excellent” has increased to ridiculous new high levels (387 out of 611 or over 63%), gifted students are being provided service at record level low numbers. In fact, 260 districts decreased services from 2010/2011 to 2011/2012. This is in addition to the 124 districts that chose not to serve any gifted students in either year.
In terms of gifted staffing, the situation is equally chilling. Along with services, licensed gifted staffing levels have likewise plummeted. Currently, there are approximately 1500 licensed gifted professionals working in the field in Ohio districts and ESCs. Considering that over 15% of Ohio’s student population is identified as gifted, this level is highly inadequate. In school districts, licensed gifted staff has decreased by 17% since the 2008/2009 school year. Gifted coordinator numbers have decreased by 32% while the number of gifted intervention specialists has decreased by 14%. In ESCs (educational service centers), where specific funding was maintained but not tied to gifted units until this past year, the decreases were less dramatic with a 7% overall decline, a 9% decrease in gifted coordinators and a 5% decrease in gifted intervention specialists. Interestingly, there was a slight increase in gifted staffing in ESCs this past year as funding was once again tied to actual gifted units.
So, to recap, 384 districts have decreased services or continue to serve no gifted students, while 387 districts are regarded as excellent this year. Services have decreased have dropped by 35% in less than four years while gifted staffing has decreased by 17%. And, of course, this is despite the gifted maintenance of effort provision that the General Assembly intended to ensure that gifted student services would be maintained over the past four years.
It is indeed a scary Halloween story for gifted students, their parents, and ultimately for all Ohioans. Let’s hope that the 130th General Assembly will do something to rectify this terrifying situation.