Synopses & Reviews
José Vilson writes about race, class, and education through stories from the classroom and researched essays. His rise from rookie math teacher to prominent teacher leader takes a twist when he takes on education reform through his now-blocked eponymous blog, TheJoseVilson.com. He calls for the reclaiming of the education profession while seeking social justice.
José Vilson is a middle school math educator for in the Inwood/Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City. He writes for Edutopia, GOOD, and TransformED / Future of Teaching, and his work has appeared in Education Week, CNN.com, Huffington Post, and El Diario / La Prensa.
"Both stirring and enlightening, this account proposes the attempts to force students into classifiable groups through testing are not just crippling their ability to learn but denying them a critical component of development: identity. Titled after his own rousing poem, delivered at the first Save Our Schools March in 2011, Vilson, an educational rabble rouser and middle-school math teacher, presents a narratively-driven analysis of what so-called educational reformers have gotten and continue to get wrong about teachers and students. With eloquence and passion, Vilson traces the path of his own relationship to public education, first as a mixed-race student, then as a novice teacher, and finally as a controversial, yet widely respected, blogger at TheJoseVilson.com. Amidst his own story, he delivers precisely executed critiques of No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core, school choice, and other Trojan horses for what he calls 'educational deform.' Vilson delivers a resounding shout against educational policy for exhibiting rampant cultural illiteracy, and sounds a galvanizing rallying cry for teachers and students to make their voices the most rather than least considered in future developments. (May.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Jose Luis Vilson has written a spell-binding book that explains the joys And burdens of teaching. The joys are the kids, with all their heartaches and dreams. The burdens are the politicians and careerists who snuff out the spirit of children and teachers. Read this book!" Diane Ravitch
"Jose Vilson writes from a place of authority about the intersection of race, class and Americas education system. His straight-talk about the absurdity of Americas test obsession, failure to meet or even acknowledge the needs of an increasingly diverse student population, and a reform” movement that has reformed nothing, failed at much and distracted from students very real needs is a telling portal on whats really going on in American education today. Those who can relate to Vilsons experiences as a student or a teacher will welcome his unvarnished honesty and reflections. And those for whom this is terra incognita will find an insightful and illuminating window on the educational experiences of Americas emerging majoritystudents of many hues and languages, whose families struggle everyday, for whom their education may be the only way up, yet who too often are failed by systems ill-equipped to foster their success. Vilsons visceral accounts remind us of the humanity of teacherstheir struggles and triumphs, their frustration with forces outside their classroom walls and, above all, their devotion to their students. By telling his own story and those of his students, Vilson shows why teacher voice is essential to shedding the failures of the past and to reclaiming the promise of public education." Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers
"As the principal of Morrill, a school that serves 850 students from preK-8th grade, this book hit home for me. Our school is nearly evenly split between Latino and African-American students, and 90% qualify for free or reduced lunch status. It is critical that we, as educators, can discuss issues of race and class with our students and with our colleagues. Mr. Vilson's book is one of the most honest, relevant, and timely books I have read. His words have been inspiring to me, and helped me reflect on my own practice. I gave a copy to every member of our faculty and staff so that they too can find the inspiration and reflect on their practices as educators." Michael Beyer, Ed.D., NBCT and Principal, Morrill Math and Science School
"Drawing from his own insight as a teacher, Jose Vilson hits right between the eyes, exposing how hardscrabble poverty and the pernicious effect of racism distort young lives. In This Is Not A Test: The New Narrative On Race, Class, and Education Vilson argues for more teachers of color, more time for teachers to support each other, and more ways for teachers to shape policy. Bristling at the cold calculus” of tests, This Is Not A Test calls for practices that engage imagination and respect students as people. In gripping language, Vilson sends students an urgent message: When we find our passions, we must enter into them boldly” and believe in the value and gift of oneself."
Dennis Van Roekel, President, National Education Association
"In its telling, Jose Vilson's evocative collection of essays are ferociously honest and, as expected from someone whose creative impulses are informed by hip-hop, unapologetic and lyrical. A thoroughly engaging narrative about the intersection of race and culture, identity, economic disparity, and education, This is Not A Test is a must-read for parents and educators who want to understand, truly and deeply, the challenges inner-city students face. It was, after all, written by one of those children, a young man from a marginalized community, who grew up and bum-rushed the system he dedicated his life to changing from within." Raquel Cepeda, author of Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina
Jose's autobiographical journey offers a big window for seeing why our nation must blur the lines of distinction between those who teach in schools and those who lead them. With powerful prose and poetry, his narrative as student and then later, NYC teacher leader, loving father (and husband), and advocate for children paints a portrait of what public education can and must be for American society. Jose's last chapter, "Why Teach," offers a hopeful vision for the future of the profession in spite of wrongheaded policymakers who seek to control teachers rather than listen and learn from them. Jose represents so many teachers across the United States, whose pedagogical skills and leadership acumen have yet to be tapped in the transformation of teaching and learning. Read "This is Not a Test" now!
Dr. Barnett Berry, CEO and Founder of The Center for Teaching Quality
"Too many books about teaching read like dull academic treatises, condescending how-tos, or simplistic Hollywood scripts. Jose Vilsons This is Not a Test avoids these traps with a narrative that is by turns passionate and funny, angry and vulnerable, and full of keen insight born of on-the-ground experience in schools. Whether referencing Jay-Z or John Dewey, discussing corporate school reform or the intimacy of one-on-one interactions with students, Vilson is a bold and fearless writer, weaving his own story and struggles into broader conversations about race, equity, and the future of public schooling. His singular, urgent voice is one we all need to hear." Gregory Michie, a public school teacher in Chicago and author of We Don't Need Another Hero: Struggle, Hope, and Possibility in the Age of High-Stakes Schooling
"Jose Vilson is a teacher of the highest order. Through the powerful narrative of his life both inside and outside of the classroom, Jose teaches us important lessons on every page of _This Is Not a Test_. Jose teaches us about the intersection of education, race, class and activism while calling all of us to do better - to be better - as we strive along with him to be the educators all our children need us to be. This book is a must read for educators, soon-to-be educators, parents, students and anyone who cares about education and the children of this country."
Chris Lehmann - Founding Principal, Science Leadership Academy
Vilson, a teacher from an urban school composed of black and poor youth, challenges racism and inequality in the classroom.
About the Author
José Luis Vilson is a math educator for a middle school in the Inwood / Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, NY. He writes for Edutopia, GOOD, and TransformED / Future of Teaching, and has written for CNN.com, Education Week, Huffington Post, and El Diario / La Prensa, NY.