A high school in a neighboring district was just named one of a couple dozen schools in the state to make it on the US News and World Report list of top high schools. This irritates me, not because our high school didn't make it, but because of in terms of objective educational outcomes, our high school is actually slightly superior.
State standardized testing? Got 'em. Graduation rates? Pretty close. SAT scores? Neck and neck. Number of students attending top colleges? Right there. That's not to say our school doesn't have its problems. We struggle in the same way that any school in an economically-depressed area does. We just don't have the resources to do everything we want to do.
My issue is that the neighboring school has many of the same problems. Their student demographics are identical to ours. They are a regionalized school with a mix of students from upscale rural towns and depressed mill towns, just like ours. Students who have attended both and teachers who have taught at both report a more positive climate at our school created by strong leadership and highly-qualified teachers, although this is obviously more subjective.
The point is that our schools are similar in many ways. So what pushed the other school onto a fairly prestigious list? The other school is new, with interactive whiteboards easily accessible, mobile labs, and general access to a wide range of technology in the classroom. Our school is 50 years old and, although we have some pretty good technology solutions given economic limitations, we haven't managed to integrate technology as obviously into the classroom as our neighbor. Obviously, a new school built from the ground up around technology is going to trump an older school in terms of public image, no matter how solid the academics at the older school.
I'm not saying that we should buy a bunch of technology to convince the public that we have a nice school. However, it is important to consider public perception, as well as how we integrate technology into the curriculum as we consider budgeting in our schools.