Here's a story from the Washington Post profiling the Met Schools of Rhode Island. I've read about their approach quite a bit and I'm thoroughly impressed with everything I've read so far.
But they didn't get really high test scores in every academic area. Shut 'em down, right? But wait-- what did they get? High scores for parental involvement, school climate, communication between students and teachers, and quality of instruction. How do you measure that with multiple choice questions? One system, School Accountability for Learning and Teaching (SALT), attempts to measure those intangibles that aren't measured in reading and math tests.
The Met Schools are under the umbrella of the Big Picture Co. which has founded 18 schools with similar goals. They are funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and are the schools we should be focused on building.
There are alternatives to endless drills, rote memorization, and mind-numbing test preparation.