Florida is a state of stark contrasts. Travel a few miles from the opulent mansions of Miami Beach and you reach desperately poor neighborhoods. There’s the grinding poverty of sugar cane country and the growing middle class of Jacksonville. All told, half the public-school students in Florida qualify for subsidized lunches. Many are the first in their families to speak English or contemplate attending college.
In many states, those economic differences are reflected in the classroom, with students in wealthy schools taking many more advanced courses.
The Opportunity Gap
But not in Florida. A ProPublica analysis of previously unreleased federal data shows that Florida leads the nation in the percentage of high-school students enrolled in high-level classes–Advanced Placement and advanced math. That holds true across rich and poor districts.
Studies repeatedly have shown that students who take advanced classes have greater chances of attending and succeeding in college.
Our analysis identifies several states that, like Florida, have leveled the field and now offer rich and poor students roughly equal access to high-level courses.
In Kansas, Maryland and Oklahoma, by contrast, such opportunities are far less available in districts with poorer families.
That disparity is part of what experts call the “opportunity gap.”