Florida leads nation in advanced classes — for rich and poor alike

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 such as advanced placement courses and advanced math.

OK, fine. But here's the amazing part: That holds true across rich and poor districts alike in the Sunshine State — and students who take these sorts of classes are, of course, far less likely to drop out.

The analysis was drawn from a nationwide survey by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which collected school-by-school reports on a range of offerings, including physics, chemistry and Advanced Placement courses in high schools. The department did the survey to assess whether states and other localities are discriminating by race, gender or disability. State and local education administrators, of course, are responsible for most funding and policy decisions.

ProPublica's headline calls Florida's gains "surprising" — but not to anyone who has been paying attention to what is happening in that state. The state has employed top-down leadership and grass roots approaches alike to combat the education gap — and it has embraced new research and new innovations in education. 

And there's still a lot of work to do — but Florida's successes show that this is not an impossible fight.