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Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Understandings of Competing Notions of Academic Achievement Coexisting in Post-NCLB Public Schools


by Keffrelyn D. Brown & Lisa S. Goldstein — 2013

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.



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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 115 Number 1, 2013, p. 1-37
http://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16739, Date Accessed: 4/20/2014 5:07:22 PM

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About the Author
  • Keffrelyn Brown
    University of Texas at Austin
    KEFFRELYN D. BROWN is an assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and affiliated faculty with the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Her research interests focus on understanding how teachers acquire, understand, and use sociocultural knowledge in their classroom practice and examining school-based and societal discourses circulated about African Americans.
  • Lisa Goldstein
    Santa Clara University
    E-mail Author
    LISA S. GOLDSTEIN is a professor and the director of teacher education at Santa Clara University. Her recent research examines the impact of state accountability systems on the curricular and instructional decision-making of practicing and preservice elementary teachers.
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