A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education
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 TheJoseVilson.com, 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!
"Jose Vilson offers us a riveting combination of classroom experience, common sense, and culturally-critiqued educational theory, flavored by genuine passion for teaching and social justice, all delivered with exquisite hip-hop dexterity. He represents voices in the U.S. education community too long muted and silent no more. If there were a test, this is what should be on it.
— Renee Moore
NBCT Board Member and English Teacher in Mississippi
"This Is Not A Test opens with a poem and continues reading like one - full of imagery, rhyme, and hip hop rhythm. It’s a life story, a love letter, a song…in which Jose Vilson uses his teacher voice to speak candidly on issues the rest of the world discusses in whispers: free speech, sexual orientation, child abuse, race, poverty, education, and the inequities that surround each of these issues. Reminiscent of Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man, Vilson paints a picture of his life as a student, and as a teacher, in New York City, all the while his words relating to students and teachers everywhere. Be prepared to set aside some time. Once you open it, you won’t put it down until you’re done. And then Vilson’s words will continue to spin around in your head and will provide a forum for important, and necessary, discussions about teaching ALL children.
- Cindi Risgbee
Finalist for National Teacher of the Year, Author of The Dream Teacher
"Jose Vilson writes from a place of authority about the intersection of race, class and America’s education system. His straight-talk about the absurdity of America’s 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 what’s really going on in American education today. Those who can relate to Vilson’s 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 America’s emerging majority—students 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. Vilson’s visceral accounts remind us of the humanity of teachers—their 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
José Luis Vilson is a math educator for a middle school in the Inwood / Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, NY. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in computer science from Syracuse University and a master’s degree in mathematics education from the City College of New York. He’s also a committed writer, activist, web designer, and father. He currently serves as the president emeritus of the Latino Alumni Network of Syracuse University, as a board member on the Board of Directors for the Center for Teaching Quality.
He writes for Edutopia, GOOD, and TransformED / Future of Teaching, and has written for CNN.com, New York Times, Education Week, Huffington Post, and El Diario / La Prensa NY.
His list of appearances and collaborations include