Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Predicting Postsecondary Success in STEM, Particularly for Hispanic Students?

A new report released by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) finds that certain indicators can predict postsecondary success in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Those indicators include the type and level of high school math and science courses that are taken and student interest and confidence in STEM during elementary and secondary school. The study also found that racial/ethnic minority students take fewer, high-level math and science courses than White students, but have a similar interest level in STEM.

The idea for this study came from the members of Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Southwest’s Texas Hispanic STEM Research Alliance. The Alliance includes educators, academics, and researchers who are concerned about the low number of Hispanic students enrolling and persisting in advanced STEM courses in high school and are pursuing and completing STEM postsecondary degrees.

As part of their early work together REL Southwest conducted a review of the research literature that explored the relationship between K–12 indicators and students’ likelihood to enroll in, persist in, and complete a postsecondary STEM major or degree to help inform the research alliance’s next steps. The review found:

•    The number and level of high school math and science courses taken are consistent predictors of postsecondary STEM success for all student subgroups, but racial/ethnic minority students, including Hispanic students, were less likely than White students to take the highest level math and science courses;

•    Student interest or confidence in STEM also predicted postsecondary STEM success, and racial/ethnic minority and White students had similar levels of interest and confidence in STEM despite the fact that racial/ethnic minority students had lower rates of enrolling in, persisting in, and completing a STEM degree; and

•    Few studies examined K–12 predictors of postsecondary STEM success specifically for Hispanic students.

The reviewed research suggests that reducing disparities in mathematics and science preparation between Hispanic and White students, and increasing the rates at which Hispanic students take high-level mathematics and science classes has promise for informing interventions designed to improve STEM outcomes.

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