This Is Not A Test

A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education
"Out of this cacophony rises a beautiful, lyrical voice—one that is uncompromisingly self-aware, reflective, and analytical. That transcendent voice belongs to “The” José Luis Vilson."
Karen Lewis
"For those who have lost hope about the possibility of using education to create a more just and democratic society, this book will be a reminder of what can be achieved when educators act with the courage of their convictions to speak out and write about what is occurring in our schools today. Vilson is a gadfly, an education activist, and a “griot,” or spokesman, for all those who are not just tired of the direction our policy makers have taken in the name of reform but are willing to do something to challenge it."
Pedro Noguera
"Jose Vilson hits right between the eyes, exposing how hardscrabble poverty and the pernicious effect of racism distort young lives."
Dennis Van Roekel, NEA President Emeritus
"We lost Bel Kaufman. We have Jose Vilson."
Professor at University of South Florida
"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."
Publishers Weekly
"José Vilson writes a personal narrative that counters folks like Coleman’s concept of education, literacy and language, their valuation of people’s voice and experience. This Is Not a Test is a refusal to be silent. It’s a refusal to capitulate or conform."
Audrey Watters, Writer at Hack Education
"José Vilson, with his in-class experience and poetic energy, would be the top choice to write A People's History of American Education."
Daniel Larkins, Truthout


Graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in computer science, Jose Vilson left campus with no job and a few hundred dollars to his name, propelling him (eventually) to his calling: teaching middle school children math in a public school in Washington Heights / Inwood, Manhattan. From his own background as a boy growing up on the drug-tainted, community-centered projects of the Lower East Side of Manhattan, this book takes the reader on the coming-of-age story of a naïve young man struggling to mature through the first few years of his career, balancing the lows of murder, poverty, and academic failure to the highs of growth and eventual triumph.

His career takes a twist when he starts a blog with incisive commentary on the state of education on his eponymous blog, taking prominent figures and institutions like NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and The New York Times to task. (As of this letter, the site is banned from most NYC Department of Education computers, yet read by central offices.) In his collection of multifaceted essays, he provokes discussion on issues of race, gentrification, and the teaching profession from the eyes of a Black-Latino educator with a mix of research and first-hand experience.

This education book is not to be missed!

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“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!” - Barnett Berry

“In This Is Not A Test, José Vilson writes a personal narrative that counters folks like Coleman’s concept of education, literacy and language, their valuation of people’s voice and experience. This Is Not a Test is a refusal to be silent. It’s a refusal to capitulate or conform. It’s an expression of a vision where we do give a shit about what you feel or what you think, because we care about people. Because in doing so – particularly in education – we help support one another in growth, in coming-of-age, in learning, and in liberation.”

 Audrey Watters, Hack Education
This Is Not a Test (This Is a Review of José Vilson’s New Book)

“At its essence this narrative is an aggressive act in that it addresses race and class through its own codes and it flips the codes of the dominant culture on itself. This is not for the faint of heart. Vilson asks us in education to give up our distanced “professional” self for one that thirsts for understanding and the ability to empower those we teach.”

 John Holland, The Learning Studio
Vilson Decoded (A review of This Is Not a Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class and Education)

“The book is a powerful commentary on the world of school today, woven through his narrative as both a student and a teacher. Jose uses the lens of his own experiences to speak to some of the most important issues facing our schools, from issues of race and class in our schools, to the need to understand our students as far more than a test score to answering the fundamental question of “Why Teach?” This is Not a Test is a deliberate creation of both memoir and social commentary that is woven together in such a compelling way as to remind every reader of the power of story to educate us of what we can and should value in our schools and in our society.”

– Chris Lehmann, Practical Theory
This is Not a Review: Jose Vilson’s “This Is Not a Test”

“In Vilson’s struggles with race and education, one hears echoes of W. E. B. Du Bois’s classic work, The Souls of Black Folk. Writing at the turn of the twentieth century when the Jim Crow regime was at the apex of its power, Du Bois took note of the special place of leadership that had been accorded to preachers and teachers within the African-American community. At the head of the church and the school, the two social institutions in which African Americans in the South were able to exercise a small measure of self-determination, the preacher and the teacher were the political and spiritual visionaries of the community, the molders of community thought. According to Du Bois, they ’embodied the ideals of this people—the strife for another and juster world, the vague dream of righteousness, the mystery of knowing.'”

– Leo Casey, Dissent Magazine
The Souls of Black Teachers: Reading José Luis Vilson with W. E. B. Du Bois

“But even though he doesn’t necessarily shy away from blogging about the personal, This Is Not a Test takes a different approach than is found in Vilson’s blog. Here, embedded within his autobiography, is a large-scale critique of the education system and society at large. That it comes from a teacher and a man of color makes it all the more powerful.”

 Jersey Jazzman, Jersey Jazzman
Book Review: This Is Not A Test

Rafranz Davis, Rafranz Davis
This is Not A Test: This is My Reflection

John Spencer, Education ReThink
This Is Not A Test (Review)

Jennifer Berkshire, Edushyster
This Is Not A Test: The Interview

Steve Hinnefeld, INSchoolMatters
“‘This Is Not a Test’: a passionate book on schools, teaching

Maureen Devlin, TeachWellNow
“This Is Not A Test” by Jose Vilson | I Recommend

Daniel Willingham, Real Clear Education
“‘This Is Not a Test’ Shifts Education Perspectives: Is Technology Just Standardizing Education More?

Aaron Pallas, Hechinger Report
Summer reading: Teachers near and far"

“He says it in powerful and compelling ways in This Is Not a Test, illustrated by stories from his own life and the lives of his students. Vilson’s deconstructed anecdotes cut through the platitudes of politicians and the endless alibis of central office admins, into the heart of America’s unresolved contradictions: public education and democratic principles; equity and privilege, race and class.”

 John Norton, MiddleWeb
José Vilson’s New Narrative

“But most importantly, I walked away thinking I want someone like Vilson to be teaching my kiddos. This is a teacher who cares and a teacher who is making a difference each and every day he steps into his classroom. We may disagree on the finer points of testing, with me hoping he would give more credit to the value of interim assessments in improving both teaching and learning. But there is no disagreeing that Vilson gets it. He knows what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong in the American classroom. He cuts through all of the flowery language and platitudes and excuses we hear far too often, and speaks truth on issues where honest truth is often absent. And he lays out issue after issue that I want to further engage him on, have a deeper discussion of, and, yes, try to change his mind about.”

 Patrick Riccards, Eduflack
Divining Wisdom from “This Is Not a Test”

“José Vilson, with his in-class experience and poetic energy, would be the top choice to write A People’s History of American Education. The spirit of Vilson’s argument reaches its crescendo in a poem called ‘This is Not a Test.’ … As a whole, its rhythm and anger is reminiscent of the oeuvres of Amiri Baraka and Allen Ginsberg. One can argue that in “This is Not a Test” the “this” can be symbolically replaced by “school.” It’s tempting to say school is about overcoming hurdles and establishing grit and perseverance. School, believe it not, should be a lesson. The lesson. Not the assessment.”

– Daniel Larkin, Truth-Out
Testing Narrative: José Vilson’s Vision of Race, Class and Education in the US

” If you have ever doubted the commitment of teachers or taken as evidence of the many, a story of a teacher who can’t do simple math, but because of the unions cannot be fired, this book is for you. A simple tale of one man who gets up every day to teach our youth, but also fight for a system that does not test them to boredom, values them as humans, respects their heritage instead of stripping it from the history books, and above all wants every child to not just race to the top, but grasp their dreams and be happy.”

– Veronica Arreola, Viva La Feminista
Book Review: This Is Not A Test

“One way to read Vilson’s memoir is as a journey toward authenticity in the classroom, as he finds ways to reconcile the inevitable tensions that arise from this dual consciousness represented by José and Mr. Vilson. The current NCLB testing regime, with its requirements to rank and sort his students, places the greatest split between these two selves. Vilson is clear what his cause is: it’s not anti-testing as much as it is pro-children. He sees firsthand the injustices and pressures that the current accountability system places on them. But his objections are full of nuance and detail, making them worth listening to.”

– Ilana Horn, Teaching / Math / Culture
Reconciling Dual Consciousness in Teaching

Fred Klonsky, PREAPrez
Jose Vilson’s This is Not a Test is released today.

Bill Fitzgerald, FunnyMonkey
Thoughts on “This Is Not A Test” from José Vilson

Michael Klonsky, SmallTalk 
This is not a test…

Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy
What I Love About Jose Vilson’s This Is Not A Test

That Math Lady, That Math Lady
Book Review: This is Not a Test

NYC Educator, NYC Educator
Summer Reading Suggestion"