STEM Pathways: Examining Persistence in Rigorous Math and Science Course Taking
From 2006 to 2012, Florida Statute §1003.4156 required middle school students to complete electronic personal education planners (ePEPs) before promotion to ninth grade. The ePEP helped them identify programs of study and required high school coursework to accomplish their postsecondary education and career goals. During the same period Florida required completion of the ePEP, Florida’s Career and Professional Education Act stimulated a rapid increase in the number of statewide high school career academies. Students with interests in STEM careers created STEM-focused ePEPs and may have enrolled in STEM career academies, which offered a unique opportunity to improve their preparedness for the STEM workforce through the integration of rigorous academic and career and technical education courses. This study examined persistence of STEM-interested (i.e., those with expressed interest in STEM careers) and STEM-capable (i.e., those who completed at least Algebra 1 in eighth grade) students (n = 11,248), including those enrolled in STEM career academies, in rigorous mathematics and science course taking in Florida public high schools in comparison with the national cohort of STEM-interested students to measure the influence of K-12 STEM education efforts in Florida. With the exception of multi-race students, we found that Florida’s STEM-capable students had lower persistence in rigorous mathematics and science course taking than students in the national cohort from ninth to eleventh grade. We also found that participation in STEM career academies did not support persistence in rigorous mathematics and science courses, a prerequisite for success in postsecondary STEM education and careers.