Doing Well in School: Repertoires of Success at the End of Elementary School
Holly Link

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Dissertation Fellowship

Award Year



University of Pennsylvania

Primary Discipline

Second Language Learning/Bilingual Education
In spite of over a decade of U.S. school reform emphasizing test preparation and performance, minoritized students continue to underachieve on standardized testing. With an abundance of research on the achievement gap, we are now more than ever aware of this problem. But to avoid reproducing longstanding school inequities, testing practices and achievement measures need rethinking. This dissertation does just that by investigating how children from Mexican immigrant and African American backgrounds develop ideas about school success. Based on long-term, collaborative ethnographic research in a recently established Mexican immigrant community, I study how children think and communicate about school success. I show how, rather than simply accepting or rejecting school-based notions of success, children take up these notions in dynamic, heterogeneous, and unexpected ways. In an era when high-stakes testing is central to school life, examining how children respond to a new emphasis on testing in the elementary years will shed light on their later orientation to school success and engagement. I also consider how, in light of this emphasis, children are sorted according to a hierarchy of categories of success, a process that has persistent effects on their social identification. Without understanding these phenomena as new forms of testing aligned with the Common Core come into play, we risk further reifying schooling inequities. This dissertation will contribute new methods for studying and theorizing achievement by drawing on children?s underrepresented perspectives and point the way to utilizing their communicative practices for increased school engagement and more equitable assessments of achievement.
About Holly Link

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