Thought this would make decent fuel for discussion.
I've seen schools go both ways. When I was in elementary school, gifted education was out of fashion as "elitist". My friends and I largely grew up as underachievers who were first challenged in graduate school, and had to scramble to learn study skills at that time after spending years coasting to A's. My son is in a system with separate gifted classes, but most of these classes are within general schools rather than totally segregated. He's having a much better learning experience, and is more comfortable socially (no bullying for "nerdiness"). The overall school seems to benefit, as the tracks are together for extracurriculars and recess, and the G&T parents are disproportionately involved in the PA. Average test scores also rise, which helps the school get government funding and grants for extras like music. Prior to the gifted program era, a lot of those families would have fled to private schools or the suburbs.
Ladybug, I love your comment about dc who "has to be met all over the place"! Our 2nd grader is a 2E also, and sounds like for similar reasons (IEP for fine motor and hand/eye coordination. Handwriting and drawing are big problems.) We've been lucky to have teachers so far who really get and practice differentiation. They get a lot of special projects where they can go as simple or deep as they like, and they get to choose their own books for reading, their own topics for current events, etc. They just started having a special cluster teacher for math.
The further we get in our children's education, the less I'm sold on specialty gifted programs and schools. I'm not saying they don't work for some kids. I just wonder if it really is the best use of limited school funding. My kids have had pretty much everything.... pull-outs, gifted clusters, stand-alone gifted classes, highly gifted tracks, you name it. In the end, what made the difference was quality teachers, flexibility, open-ended curriculum and opportunities to accelerate (grade or subject acceleration.) These were things that benefited ALL the kids and didn't cost the school anything.
Personally, I think high school is messed up in general. AP's aren't working. They take a semester college class, spread it out over a year and then make-up a ridiculous amount of busy work to justify it being twice as long. They are still in that "we don't trust you to learn this how you learn best so we're going to have you learn it EVERY way in hopes that something sticks." Then, kids pay for test scores many colleges won't even accept for units anymore. My 15-year-old is taking her courses at the community college now for actual, transferable units and she doesn't have a fraction of the work load she did in AP's.... and she feels like she's learning more. I feel the pressure creates self-centeredness at an age where they don't need any help in that department lol. It also wastes their experimental years.
I'd never send my kids to a pressure cooker high school. I don't care about the reputation. Those schools in our area graduate impressive kids on paper but they graduate kids who are all look very much the SAME on paper. We know too many kids in these schools that give up on the quirly little things they are passionate about so they can add their resume to the pile of "4.5 GPA, violin playing, president of the Key club." It's our quirky differences and how we develop them than make us interesting isn't it?