Schools get creative to fund gifted programs

Posted at 5:00 AM, Jan 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-03 07:26:04-05

CINCINNATI — State funding changes in recent years have some Tri-State school districts seeking creative ways to sustain gifted programming.

State funding for educational service centers decreased from $8.1 million to $3.8 million in fiscal year 2013, according to the Ohio Association of Gifted Children 2015 State of Gifted Education. While the state also provided almost $68 million to about 600 public school districts, some districts – particularly those in rural areas – were affected by the reduction.

Even before the cutbacks, Middletown City Schools did not receive enough funding from the state to support gifted services.

“We have never received funding to run the program the way we run the program,” said Carolyn Mack, director of staff development and gifted education for Middletown.

While the decline in state funding did not directly impact Middletown’s gifted services, district officials pay close attention to areas where they can make modifications while still effectively serving students. The district three years ago restructured its gifted programming, eliminating art and music.

“We did cut those two only because we wanted to align with the district’s goal,” Mack said. “It’s not so much a cut but a restructuring.”

While the third- through sixth-graders still get art and music education in their local schools, they might not have the enhancements in math, language arts and creativity offered in the district’s gifted program. The program focuses more on technology, group work and real-world problem-solving.

“We put a heavier emphasis on the instructional focus,” Mack said.

Although Hamilton City Schools cut its formal gifted department about six years ago, the district has since added an after-school gifted enrichment program and a summer enrichment program for fifth- and sixth-graders. The district also continues to offer honors and advanced-placement classes at the secondary level.

Many local districts, including Mason and Franklin city schools in Ohio and Beechwood Independent and Boone County in Kentucky, have avoided making cuts to gifted education programs in recent years. But that doesn’t necessarily mean state dollars are sufficient to maintain the programming.

Newport Independent Schools “do not receive enough state money for gifted education to fund one single person,” Superintendent Kelly Middleton said in an email.

Similarly, Fort Thomas Independent Schools do not receive enough money from the state of Kentucky to support gifted services. However, community support enables the district to provide enrichment opportunities.

“While the funding we receive from the state for gifted is very limited, in Fort Thomas local tax dollars are used to supplement the program,” said Gene Kirchner, superintendent for Fort Thomas Independent Schools.

Despite limited state funding, some districts such as Kings and Lakota have managed not only to maintain services but also have bolstered gifted programming in recent years.

Currently in the second year of a three-year gifted services action plan, Lakota is emphasizing gifted support and enrichment for students in seventh through 12th grade.

“In order to ensure gifted students maximize their learning potential, they must be provided with opportunities to dig deeper in the curriculum and apply their learning in realistic relevant learning environments,” said Jenifer Lodovico, Lakota’s director of gifted services, in a district newsletter.

New secondary gifted specialists help gifted students dig deeper into core subject areas and work with teachers in the subjects to help tailor lessons for advanced students. Gifted advisers also are available to offer guidance in areas including organization, time and stress management and social communication.