Megan commented on a study that shows that high performing schools are coasting on their demographics. A bunch of bloggers are commenting on this and other studies, one of which argues that many schools are engaging in winner-take-all education: focusing teaching resources on the top-performing colleges, grooming them for the Ivy League at the expense of students that perform well but aren't at the top.
It just so happens that our community paper (you know, those free, slender papers that accumulate unread on your front porch or driveway) published the college plans of this year's graduates from the high school in Φ's lily-white little burg.
It was interesting reading. First, nearly everyone will be attending college. Of our ~150 graduating seniors, we had one "undecided", and one student listed "U. S. Army" as his destination. We had maybe 10 students list the local community college (a well-regarded one by all accounts). Everyone else listed a four-year college.
But the high-end of the distribution . . . wasn't especially. Nobody listed a school in the Ivy League or a service academy. This year's valedictorian will be going to Northwestern. (Last year's valedictorian went to Harvard, I think.) Among the schools I recognized for their national reputations I saw Case Western, Clemson, Virginia Tech, and RPI. The vast majority, however, will be attending school in-state at either the U, the State-U, or one of the numerous private Catholic affiliated colleges. (Φ-ville is really, really RC that way.) These are good schools, but not in the U.S. News top-fifty, and not especially competitive. (For instance, they accept a majority of applicants.)
I expect that this reflects our family ambitions. Our median household income is $79k (against a median home value of $230k). A look at the distribution shows that we don't have an extraordinary number of super-wealthy parents likely to push their children toward Ivy-League schools. The families that choose to live here expect their children to attend college somewhere, but are content with what the in-state colleges offer. Our high school largely delivers on that expectation.