Rabbi Horowitz had an article last week (OK, so I'm somewhat slow...) about kids who are average learners (even if they are excellent in middos and yiddishkeit) finding it more and more difficult to get into mainstream yeshivos. More and more often, these kids are being pushed into "alternative" yeshivos where they are often grouped together with "at risk" kids when, in reality, they don't suffer from the same problems that many at-risk kids suffer from.
As the parent of an eighth grader who is less than stellar in Gemorah, his article certainly struck a chord within me. Eeees and I were dreading the high-school application process because we knew that our son was average at best in Gemorah.
Maybe it's because we didn't apply to schools like Mirrer, Chaim Berlin, Torah V'Da'as, etc., but it seems that B"H, we were matzliach. He applied to four schools of a more "modern" bent (how I hate that word in that context) and he was accepted into three of them.
Sadly, the way Rabbi Horowitz reports it, it's a vicious cycle -- parents demand more excellence, so more "average" kids get left out. As the schools are increasingly populated only with excellent students, the average is pulled ever higher.
Truth to tell, I think that it is the responsibility of parents to try to find the best school that their son will fit in, and not necessarily the best school. We certainly could have applied to a school such as the type I listed above, and who knows, maybe he would have gotten into one -- but he certainly wouldn't be happy there. He needs a school that will work with him on his level of learning, challenge him to grow in learning to the best of his abilities and provide direction for post-graduate learning -- in limudei kodesh AND limudei chol. Simply going for the "best" school because of fear of losing social standing or future shidduch issues is incredibly counter-productive and the harm that you can cause a child far outweighs the benefits. Engaging in such behavior does far more to put a kid "at risk" then sending him to a yeshiva that accepts "average" students.