I am a recently retired high school social studies teacher. My students were required to do one research paper and one multimedia presentation each semester. I found that students learned more about areas of interest than they would have normally.
After No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2002, I lost three to four weeks each year to drilling students on test questions. My evaluations centered on test scores, not actual student learning.
During my last few years of teaching, I dropped the student projects and research to make time for countless days boring my students with test-taking practice. The irony is that test scores did not count as part of a student's grade, so there was no real incentive to do well.