Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Committee Chair

Benjamin Williams


Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) continue to be a major challenge for the United States (U.S.), as the U.S. continues to lag behind other countries in this area due to ongoing lack of individuals who are entering STEM fields and many who are entering STEM fields but lack the skills necessary to perform adequately in these roles. The problem related to this study involved the ongoing need to identify how well STEM education programs are addressing this need and increasing the number of students, especially underrepresented minorities, in following STEM career pathways and developing the knowledge and skills needed to persist in the field. The purpose of this quantitative study was to explore the persistence and performance of students who attended a STEM-focused middle school in North Carolina. The Social Cognitive Career Theory is the theoretical framework for this study and provides a foundation for how career decisions developed over time. This study was a quantitative, nonexperimental investigation of student data on high school student STEM persistence and academic performance in STEM-related courses throughout high school, after attending a STEM-focused middle school for their sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-grade years. The study results found that male students have twice the amount of STEM persistence on average than female students and that African-American students had the least amount of STEM persistence as all other subgroups of students, while the White subgroup had the greatest STEM persistence than all other subgroups. In addition, study results also found that female students STEM academic performance was comparable to that of male students, with females having slightly better performance in mathematics courses. Also, the White subgroup outperformed all other subgroups, while the African-American and Hispanic subgroups’ academic performance was the lowest. The standard multiple regression resulted in very low significance, however, between the gender and race/ethnicity of students and their STEM persistence and STEM academic performance. Implications of the study for school districts include ensuring STEM-focused middle schools have effective practices that significantly impact students’ interest, especially underrepresented subgroups of students, in STEM, explicitly identifying and acknowledging and identifying solutions for barriers that impact STEM persistence and academic performance, and ensuring the instructional practices employed by STEM teachers are equitable through the use of culturally and gender-responsive pedagogy. Overall, the study has the potential to assist districts with STEM-focused middle schools to improve data trends on students’ academic performance and persistence in STEM.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License