So happy to read people like you exist. The very premise of GreatSchools is unsubstantiated and anecdotal at best. This seems to be a trend with organizations of any kind that put buzz-words in their name, sort of like Fox News slogan of “Fair and Balanced.” Great implies some rubrics that even if quantified are substantially lacking in substance. My favorite fail is the measurement of how many go on to college. This is an indicator that a school is utterly failing in my opinion. A “great school” would educate individuals and help promote the proper path for the individual rather than feeding a system that continues to fail most who participate (and that is an objective measure of the actual amount of learning that happens in most colleges).
That said, there are plenty of failing schools and educators who would enjoy the shade my umbrella of “your great school actually sucks” that don’t deserve it as well. Probably a large number of the low ranking schools simply fail the individual on levels that most would agree upon (happiness, training, motivation, job-placement, etc.)
The best message is simply make your own decisions and stop relying on others to tell you what is great and what is not. Unfortunately, as we see every day, a large portion of our population requires lazy recipes and rules for life or they freeze with fear and inability. If so and so says it’s great, it must be great. It is tantamount to having a Java programmer tell me, well I make $250,000 a year so Java is obviously a great language. The two are completely unrelated.