Mike Treadaway, director of research at the Fischer Family Trust, an educational charity, said he was concerned that too many teachers were giving children goals without consulting them first. As a result, sometimes the target underestimated what the pupil knew he or she could achieve.
He cited the case of a pupil who had been given a target of level 6s in his key stage 3 tests, based on what he had achieved at key stage 2. But the boy, he said, knew he was capable of much more, and proved it by achieving level 7s.
Mr Treadaway said: "The school was being quite ambitious for this pupil, based on the data it had. But the way this was presented to him was that this is your target, rather than we think you can do better.
"I do not think schools can reasonably complain about the Department for Education and Skills and local authorities giving them top-down targets and then doing the same to pupils."
Mr Treadaway was speaking at a conference in Windsor organised by Naace, the information technology in education association.
Delivering the keynote address, Keith Holder, of the DfES's information strategy group, said that the Government wanted a system in which every learner's data was held against a single number.
This would go much further than the current Unique Pupil Number, which applies only in schools. It would cover the entire education and children's services sector, making it easier to identify people's needs.
He added: "It is controversial, and challenging, but we are working towards a system where we get much more coherent about how we identify people."