Oh yes, standardized tests. I took them every year in Texas growing up, and though I've always done well on them, I've always despised them. Here's why as explained as succinctly as it can be, which simply made my day. This is from the book Gross National Happiness by Arthur C. Brooks.
The purpose of administering them, at least originally, was to see whether schools were providing an adequate education to the majority of their students. When the students at a particular school perform poorly, on average, the school faces sanctions—thus the teachers have incentives to "teach to the test," focusing on preparing students to take the test instead of teaching the content the test is supposed to measure.
In essence, the purpose of standardized tests is completely undermined by the resulting responses from administrators and teachers to improve scores. So even though standardized tests are implemented with good intentions to improve education, they actually have the opposite effect.
I watched this happen in my own schools.
I remember my freshman year English class, we spent countless days taking practice exams for the TAKS test. I hated that class. Besides it being unproductive and time-wasting, that kind of "learning" took all the fun out of education. I knew I wasn't absorbing anything useful or enlightening in that class. It was dull and monotonous to everyone, including the teacher, and so all joy of learning was sucked out of us. Standardized tests are probably the very reason I detested English so much, however good I was at it. I only learned to love English in college—after standardized tests no longer loomed over my teachers' heads and I was free to learn and therefore free to love to learn. In fact, my passion for English blossomed in college, and I ended up graduating with a major in English language and a minor in editing; I currently work as an editor.
Perhaps someday the gross irony we call standarized testing will be ripped away from our public schools. Until then, I suppose we can only do our best to nurture a love of learning in our children and teach them that intelligence and success is not defined by a test score.