As the de facto arbiters of merit in our meritocracy, selective schools are caught in tortuous business of keeping ratings high, admitting nearly only the straight A, 2400 SAT lacrosse team captain types. Gaming admissions becomes an act of parental positioning in affluent communities nationwide. Student backgrounds in top tier schools have become dangerously homogeneous for a nation with our diversity. Four out of five students in our Ivied institutions come from houses in the top quarter of the income bracket. More alarming, only 2% of selective school students hail from the bottom 50% in family income. NYC parents now spend hundreds to send their pre-K babies to gifted program test preparation to nab a spot in the fast track early on. Myriad programs provide a capstone experience to a well-heeled high school career, offering one more fractional privilege to a polished list of credentials. The interplay of school rankings, family wealth and college prep industries form a ever increasing feedback loop. Our nation’s most desirable schools are becoming the turbo-charger in the engine of inequality.
Given student profiles at our nations’ top schools, chances for students in high poverty districts like ours could be remote. While such schools maintain some programming to diversify their student bodies, the pathways offered usually lead to a single school and can serve institutional interests as much as the students’. ILC establishes an unparalleled program on terms advantageous to our students. ILC uniquely exposes students with a sweeping survey of possibilities and instills the attributes needed to attain them. No other program offers such tangible opportunities for success. ILC prepares kids for life in a potent, global form.
As a lower income West County family, we haven’t the resources to make aware our daughter of options beyond California schools. East Coast institutions for her were abstractions. WCCUSD students can be self-limiting when making crucial life decisions beyond high school, often following the crowd to local community college, CSU or UC. While California is fortunate to have a wonderful college system, extraordinary educations are also to be had in Eastern selective schools. Californians in more affluent districts are made aware of the full range available, and comprise a healthy number of admits in the Ivies, but districts like ours have little representation. ILC successfully shifted our students and families thinking about college opportunities.
Reading the blogs each day, we could see our daughter’s horizons expand. Lessons we’ve tried to impart from middle school on –without success- were manifestly registering. The value of study, rising to challenge and always doing one’s best evolved on Blogspot each day. She was able to measure the strengths and limitations of her WCCUSD education prior to attending college, something unavailable to her older sister. Watching via the internet her love of learning grow filled our hearts, and drew us back to her early school years.
We are profoundly grateful to ILC, Charles, Don and Madeline, the donors and chaperones for bringing this extraordinary program to our family. May you reach hundreds more deserving families across our district well into the future. ILC values hard work, personal accountability and effort in the face of adversity must become those of WCCUSD. Every WCCUSD student should have the opportunity to learn in a classroom where everyone is engaged. The benefits of rigorous liberal education can be had in high school. We must strive to bring it to all. The world needs West County kids in positions of influence. The ILC will get them there.
Misa Hayashi and Todd Groves