The seven Philly-area schools recently named National Blue Ribbon Schools deserve huge congratulations. The winners represents schools whose students, teachers, and leaders worked extremely hard during the most difficult school year in memory.

At the same time, the majority of these schools demonstrate, yet again, that education in America is just another commodity, with the highest quality reserved for those who can either buy it or those for whom it is reserved.

Four of the area schools named National Blue Ribbon Schools are private Catholic schools; St. Ignatius of Antioch School in Yardley, St. Mary Catholic School in Schwenksville, St. Norbert School in Paoli, and St. Andrew School in Newtown.

» READ MORE: Seven Philadelphia-area schools win National Blue Ribbon honor

As is their prerogative, these schools are highly selective. If they accept non-Catholic families at all, they order their list of admission priority by their devotion to Catholicism with first spots going to local parishioners with verification of baptism required. The next spots go to nonlocal parishioners, and any remaining spots to non-Catholic families. Cost of attendance can also vary by one’s connection to Catholicism with — non-parishioners paying sometimes $1,000 more than parishioners.

Again, the students and staff at these schools deserve tremendous praise for their exceptional work; it also shows that access to such high quality education comes not just at a financial cost, but often on a selective basis.

The three remaining schools, while public, are similarly restrictive in who can access their high quality education. Tinicum Elementary in Pipersville serves a student population that is more than 90% white and median housing value in the Palisades School District is just under $400,000. While Tinicum may be a public school in theory, it’s public only to those who can afford to live there.

Girard Academic Music Program (GAMP) is a magnet school that, as is its prerogative, is highly selective. According to its website, applicants must score at least an 80% on the state standardized tests, have only As and Bs on their report card, have an exemplary attendance record, and no negative behavior history. GAMP applicants must also sit for vocal auditions. In a city where the majority of its citizens identify as people of color, GAMP is majority white. While it may not cost extra to attend GAMP, spots are precious and reserved only for those who fit the mold.

Penn Alexander isn’t a magnet school per se, but it’s close to one. The school benefits from a special affiliation with the University of Pennsylvania and enjoys greater per student spending than many of its peers. Home values have tripled in the neighborhood catchment zone that feeds students to the school — it is not uncommon for properties in the area to list for more than half a million dollars. Similar to Tinicum Elementary, Penn Alexander may be a public school in theory, but only to those who can afford to buy a home there.

Education in America is a commodity purchased in the marketplace of tuition and real estate with high quality schools accessed by those who can afford them and under-resourced and underperforming schools attended by those who cannot.

None of this is to take away from the incredible achievement of these students, teachers, and school leaders. What they have done is extraordinary. But that’s the problem. It’s extraordinary when in fact it should be the norm.

Zachary Wright is an assistant professor of practice at Relay Graduate School of Education, serving Philadelphia and Camden, and a communications activist at Brightbeam. A 2013 Philadelphia Outstanding Teacher of the year, his new book Dismantling a Broken System: Actions to Bridge the Opportunity, Equity, and Justice Gap in American Education is set for release in December.