This is Not a Test – A Book Report

Submitted by:
Anna Thompson
MCTM Region 8 Director

I have not written a book report since I was in high school, but after reading This is Not a Test – A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education by José Luis Vilson and listening to Vilson speak at the MCTM Spring Conference, I am inspired to write. I encourage you to read his book, this book report will not be a spoiler.

I first heard about this book through the MCTM Equity Task Force who I have been following since I attended one of their presentations last fall. I had just finished reading Blink by Malcolm Gladwell and Blindspot by Mahzarin Banajof and Anthony Greenwold, two books discussed in their book study webinars*. When the task force chose This is Not a Test as their next book study, I knew I had to read it. District Directors were offered a discount so I ordered several, one for myself and some to share.

In working on my education degree, I was required to read Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. In writing This is Not a Test – A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, Vilson has taken on Kozol’s charge of writing about and campaigning for equity in public education.
The importance of this cause was, once again, brought home to me at the 2017 MCTM Delegate Assembly where all eight districts in our state either presented a resolution on or discussed the need for supporting equity in education in our public schools.

In his book, Vilson states, “It all goes back to the same root: our educational system is meant to keep certain people docile and uneducated.” (p.97) When asked “What can we do?”, he gives a short list of six tips:

1) Get that respect. However you choose to do it, you must gain your students’ respect first.
2) Don’t try to change them, try to know them. As you get to know them, an exchange of learned experiences may occur and change becomes implicit.
3) Show up to things sporadically. Sports events, plays, etc.
4) Talk to them. One-on-one – helps to earn respect.
5) Humble yourself. Give students the power to form their own learning.
6) Celebrate and accentuate the positive. Try not to let the negative cloud your judgement.

The bold in the list above is Vilson’s, the comments I have paraphrased from his text.

In his keynote speech at the conference, he suggests following EduColor, a consortium that supports public school advocates of color on educational equity and justice. For more specific information, several conference attendees blogged about Jose´ focusing on his speech and book. These blogs can be found by googling “MCTM Conference, José Luis Vilson and This is Not a Test.

The following link will take you to Jose´’s poem title This is Not a Test.

He used this poem as his speech during the Save our Schools march in Washington, DC IN 2011. If you have any question about Vilson’s opinion on high-stakes testing in education, this poem will set you straight.

*link to webinar:
link to EduColor:

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