Data shows discrepancy in AP course enrolment at Cordova, Folsom high schools



Kay Stout, Cordova High School

White students are 3.1 times as likely to be enrolled in at least one AP class as Black students at Cordova High School, according to an interactive database published by ProPublica (


The data for Cordova High and Folsom High School reveal significant race and income-based disparities in access to advanced course work, achievement and frequency of discipline.

ProPublica published the interactive database in October 2018 under the title, “Miseducation: Is There Racial Inequality in Your School?” The latest data is from the 2015-2016 school year. Most of the data is from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. (

At Cordova High, Blacks comprised 15% of the student population, but only 7% of AP enrollment and 12% of Gifted and Talented program (GATE) enrollment. Hispanics comprised 33% of the student population, but only 21% of AP enrollment and 15% of GATE enrollment. By comparison, Whites comprised 38% of the student population, but 51% of AP enrollment and 50% of GATE enrollment.

At Folsom High, the AP and GATE disparity particularly affected Hispanic students. They comprised 12% of the student population, but only 6% of AP enrollment and 4% of GATE enrollment. Interestingly, while Asian/Pacific Islander/Alaska Native students comprised 19% of the overall population, they made up 36% of AP enrollment and 29% of GATE enrollment. (

Opportunities for advanced coursework increase high school students’ ability to obtain college credit while they are still in high school. But the importance goes beyond just college credits, according to a June 30, 2021 report by the Center for American Progress. The report shows the gaps at Folsom and Cordova reflect a nationwide problem.

“Due to the increased rigor and high expectations of these courses, advanced coursework offers high schoolers valuable opportunities to gain skills and demonstrate competencies in the kinds of learning they can expect to see in postsecondary education,” the report said. “However, the opportunity gaps in the advanced coursework system—the inequitable distribution of funding, supports, and pathways for student participation and success—have a profound impact on which students are enrolling and succeeding in advanced coursework opportunities. (

The access gap, and how it relates to students’ family income, can be seen in the overall AP and GATE enrollment numbers for Cordova and Folsom, according to the ProPublica database.

Cordova qualifies as a Title 1 school , which means it receives federal aid because at least 40% of its students come from low-income families. Additionally, Cordova’s student population is 62% non-White. Only 6% of Cordova students take AP classes, and only 5% are in the GATE program.

Those numbers are quite different at Folsom, where students live in a wealthier community and 61% of the enrollment is White. At that school, 25% of students take AP courses, and 16% are enrolled in the GATE program.

The two schools also show disparities in and advanced study and achievement metrics, according to the ProPublica database.

At Folsom, 20% of students enrolled in advanced math courses and 7% enrolled in physics. The school’s graduation rate was 99%. At Cordova, 9% of students enrolled in advanced math classes and 3% took physics. The graduation rate was 93%.

Discipline-related absences also can affect achievement, and the two schools showed disparities there, too. At Folsom, students missed a total of 205 days because of suspensions according to the ProPublica database. At Cordova, that number was 606 days.

Blacks were disproportionately subject to suspension at Cordova. They comprised 15% of the student population, but 39% of those who received out-of-school suspensions. By comparison, Whites comprised 38% of the student population, but only 23%  of the students who received out-of-school suspensions.

Those numbers are important, because the achievement gap between Black and White students is related to racial gaps in school discipline, according to a Stanford University-led study published in 2019, 

“Prior research has suggested that achievement gaps and discipline gaps may be two sides of the same coin,” said Francis Pearman, an assistant professor at Stanford Graduate School of Education and lead author of the study. “This is the first study to document this relationship at the national level.” (