My sister is a teacher, as most regular readers of my blog know, and she often laments how testing in her school, and especially in this state, makes absolutely no sense. The kids aren’t tested on practical applications of what they’ve learned, but rather on how well they’ve memorized formulas/dates/times/names/places/etc. Test scores come back, and it always looks like the kids aren’t really retaining anything, but the trouble isn’t that they’re not retaining it, it’s that they’re not being tested accurately. If you tell me “1066,” the first words out of my mouth will be “William the Conquerer, the Battle of Hastings.” I can’t tell you anything more than that about any of those things, because that’s all I had to remember. If you ask me the quadratic equation, I can tell you it’s ax2 + bx + c = 0, but I haven’t had to use it once for anything since my junior year of high school. In 1999.
I think if teachers were able to focus more on practical applications of the material, rather than just on making the kids memorize stuff, they’d do better using it later on, because it wouldn’t be a matter of trying to remember something you’d learned 20 years earlier…it would be something that was always readily available.