Jose Vilson’s This is Not a Test is released today.


Jose Vilson’s book, This is Not a Test, was released today. I thought I would repost the review I wrote last March.

This is Not a Test. Jose Vilson. Haymarket Books

My friend Professor Bill Schubert, who is also my professional mentor, advocated the very Deweyian idea of teacher lore as a basis for educational research.

Schubert’s idea is to extend to teachers “a progressive faith acknowledging that they are researchers and theory builders in their professional lives.”

In an age of education experts who have no experience with teaching or classrooms, teacher lore is a common sense yet radical notion of educational research.

Jose Vilson’s This is Not a Test is an important contribution to the library of teacher lore.

Jose and I have never met face to face, yet we are colleagues and friends. We are among that small group of teacher bloggers who always have published using our real names, even as we actively taught in public school classrooms.

He is a middle school math teacher in the Inwood/Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.

Jose Vilson and I have other things in common. The common experiences made me read this, his first book, and nod at so many of his stories in recognition, as any practicing public school teacher will.

And then there are the differences that separate his experiences from mine. All teacher stories are common and unique.

There are issues of race and class, which for many of my colleagues always involve difficult conversations.

When we can make them take place.

I am older. I am white. I taught in a suburban school. I taught students of relative wealth and privilege compared to Jose’s.

He is of Dominican and Haitian parents. His are students of color and who are challenged by the huge chasm between wealth and poverty that divides America.

Jose’s stories put on display our educational tale of two cities.

But it is Jose Vilson’s attention to race and class from someone with both feet planted firmly in the classroom that make this book unfortunately rare.

He goes at current education policies of testing, Common Core and charter schools.

These are issues that impact all public schools, all public school teachers and students.

Make no mistake as to where and at which students these policies throw their meanest punch.

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