Hopkins school board member calls test scores ‘meaningless’

"Mr. Adams' assertion that income levels are directly tied to test results undermines lower-income students by insinuating they cannot learn at the same level as their high income peers," said Catrin Wigfall, a policy fellow at Center of the American Experiment.

Hopkins School Board Member Steve Adams, pictured second from the left in the front row, said MCA tests are "meaningless." (Hopkins Public Schools)

A veteran Hopkins School Board member dismissed Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) tests as “meaningless” and reportedly credited the district’s low scores to “white flight.”

According to the Center of the American Experiment, in response to a post on Nextdoor, which highlighted Hopkins Public Schools’s falling test scores, Hopkins School Board Member Steven Adams wrote:

“Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) tests are a meaningless indicator of school district quality. Colleges don’t consider them in evaluating applicants. Employers don’t consider them in evaluating potential employees. In-depth studies have determined that standardized tests only correlate to family income. Is it any wonder, then, that the school districts with highest family income score best on the MCA tests?”

To support his claim, Adams linked to a 2016 New York Times article which claims test scores should not be used to rate academic performance.

“This is absurd. These people think they’re bulletproof. Is the Minnesota Department of Education aware of his stance? Is the rest of the school board and Superintendent Mhiripiri-Reed aware of his stance?” asked one parent.

Adams discredited the only known way to measure academic proficiency because the district is doing so poorly, according to Bob Fallen. Fallen is founder of Local Elections Matter, a group that encourages greater engagement in city council and school board races.

Carrie Walsh, who transferred her student out of the district because of poor performance, said when she questioned Adams about the sinking scores, he not only said the MCA is “meaningless” but also said the district’s low scores are due to “white flight.”

“If white students would stay, the test scores would go back up. That pissed me off,” she said. “I only wanted to talk to him about grades.”

Walsh said she is skeptical of Adams’ claim because she transferred her student to a district that is more diverse than Hopkins and the test scores there are great.

“We pulled our child from Hopkins school district to go to a school with the emphasis on learning reading, writing and math. It was more geared to what we wanted. The part I find so hilarious is there’s more diversity in our school right now than at Hopkins. I’m sitting there going, obviously, [Hopkins’ low scores] are not because of white flight,” she said.

Michon Ross, a former reading para professional and parent of four Hopkins graduates, said, “Those tests are not meaningless. They count, and I don’t know how you could say something so radical.”

Testing helps a teacher understand where a child needs help, according to Ross.

“You’re testing to get a pulse of where that child is in that subject,” she said. “You need to test every so often because if you have 18 to 32 students in your math class, you might not know the things that you ought to know. That’s why we test.”

Adams is serving his third term on the school board. He was first elected in 2011 and then reelected in 2019. He was named to the 2022 All State School Board.

“Mr. Adams’ assertion that income levels are directly tied to test results undermines lower-income students by insinuating they cannot learn at the same level as their high income peers,” said Catrin Wigfall, a policy fellow at Center of the American Experiment, which first reported on Adams’ comments.

According to data from the Minnesota Department of Education, only 42 percent of Hopkins students are proficient in math and just over half are reading at grade level.

These numbers are far from satisfying the standard set by Hopkins Superintendent Dr. Rhoda Mhiripiri-Reed.

According to a statement on the Hopkins Public Schools website:

“She is the first woman and the first person of color to serve as Hopkins superintendent. Her vision is to bring Hopkins Public Schools from great to world class so that all Hopkins scholars reach their full potential.”

Standardized assessments are not perfect but cannot be entirely dismissed because they are a key component for holding schools accountable, Wigfall said.

“Are standardized assessments perfect? No, but they are currently the best objective statewide measurement we have to gauge academic growth and progress,” she said.

Alpha News reached out to Mhiripiri-Reed, the Minnesota Department of Education, and Adams for comment but did not receive a response.


Sheila Qualls

Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.