If you hate the movement, it means either a) teaching test prep tricks, or b) teaching a limited range of factoids that are likely to appear on the test, in lieu of more meaningful content.
According to Princeton Neuroscientist Sam Wang, tests can be a valuable teaching tool when used effectively, and when used in combination with enjoyable, interactive projects that enable students to construct meaning actively (rather than learning it by rote).
Sam Wang: It turns out that both psychology and neuroscience research have converged on the idea that testing itself can, in fact, enhance learning. So, for instance, if I give you a little quiz, then immediately after I say “well, that part was right, and that part was wrong,” then you, the student, will often learn a little bit more.
The high stakes of state and citywide tests (in New York, for example, they are used to determine middle and high-school placement) also limit their effectiveness as a teaching tool, and introduce potentially harmful anxiety into the learning environment. The degree of harm depends upon the fragility of the child, but even at best, anxiety’s a lousy teacher.
Sam Wang: When children play, they're learning more, they’re relaxed, they’re happy. And so teaching children anything under conditions of stress is in fact counterproductive to whatever it is that you want the child to learn.
Once again, hour-long standardized tests lose. They’re frequent enough to cause anxiety, but too rare and too long to support learning effectively. Depending on their quality, they might succeed in improving curricula or measuring some aspects of student learning. But their ubiquity means these tests are becoming a big part of instruction in public schools, a role they're not performing very well.
Dr. Wang does note one unintended possible benefit of standardized tests – they teach persistence:
Sam Wang: Persistence is a trait that serves us well in many areas of our lives, many things that we have to do later on in life. So even though it may seem unpleasant to make a third-grader sit through a test, you’re giving the child an environment in which sitting for an hour is something they have to do. And as we all learn later in life, we all have to sit through things for an hour sometimes, whether we like it or not.