Background/Context: Since the 2002 implementation of No Child Left Behind , teaching in public school contexts has become more complex and challenging. Today, public school teachers at all grade levels are accountable for maintaining a steady focus on their students’ academic achievement. However, many teachers have found themselves wrestling with two conflicting understandings of academic achievement. These two conflicting understandings reflect two existing discourses used to frame students’ acquisition of school-centered knowledge and skills: academic progress and academic success.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of the Study: In this article, we focus on the coexisting discourses of academic achievement circulating within in our participants’ teaching credential preparation experience. We present the data, drawn from the first two sets of interviews completed for our larger study of preservice teachers’ understandings of the relationship between sociocultural factors and academic achievement, that document our participants’ confusion and uncertainty about the meaning of “academic achievement.” We draw from the notion of discourse, as theorized by Michel Foucault, to foreground the need to establish specific terminology—namely, academic progress and academic success—to clarify the various aspects of academic achievement and to facilitate discussion of this critically important construct.
Research Design: The study draws from a basic or generic qualitative methodology in which the aim is to understand a situation by exploring, analyzing, and interpreting the perspectives and understandings of individuals within that situation. The findings come from data generated across two interviews conducted with preservice teachers at the beginning and conclusion of their first semester in the professional development sequence of their elementary (pk–4) teacher education program.
Setting: The study takes place at a large urban university teacher education program in the U.S. South.
Population/Participants/Subjects: Participants are a racially and ethnically diverse set of 12 preservice teacher candidates. Ten were pursuing a elementary generalist teaching credential, and 2 were pursuing a elementary generalist-bilingual teaching credential.