PI: Dr. Gladis Kersaint, Education

Sponsor: National Science Foundation

The project “Effects of STEM/ICT Aspirants’ High School Experiences on STEM and ICT Course-Taking” is a three-year, longitudinal, multi-method research study investigating high school science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information communications technology (ICT) course-taking for students who identified and interest in STEM or ICT careers as part of their eighth-grade career planning activities. The purpose of this study is to connect students’ experiences with, perceptions of, and thoughts about what influences rigorous STEM/ICT course-taking with patterns found among larger student groups and the larger structures that shape STEM/ICT course-taking. The overarching goal of this study is to identify specific  points where targeted interventions have the potential to increase STEM/ICT course-taking and persistence, particularly among populations who are underrepresented in STEM and ICT careers.

From 2010-2014 school year, a research team at the University of South Florida identified a cohort of students, who self-reported interests to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and information communications technology (ICT) careers (STEM-Interested) on their eighth grade electronic personal education planners (ePEP) in the state of Florida, to investigate their persistence in rigorous science and mathematics during high school (STEM-Capable).

Our primary aim was to understand the factors that influenced their persistence, to generate new knowledge about why some students leave STEM/ICT pathways and others do not, particularly when they indicate early aspirations in STEM and ICT careers.

Data Sources:

Data Analyses:
We used propensity score analysis and survival analysis methods to analyze secondary data from the National Center for Educational Statistic’s High School Longitudinal Study of 2009, and the Florida Department of Education’s P-20 Education Data Warehouse.

We conducted 29 focus group interviews with 42 participants and 102 classroom observations at five schools in two Florida schools districts to understand the factors that influenced STEM-Interested high students’, who self-reported interests to pursue STEM and ICT careers on their eighth grade ePEP, decisions to enroll in rigorous mathematics and science course-taking in Florida’s high school and STEM/ICT career academies, in comparison to a national cohort.


  • Overall Persistence. By the 11th grade, STEM-Interested students in Florida’s
    high schools persisted more than students in Florida’s STEM Career Academies,
    but less than U.S. STEM Capable students.
  • Factors that Influenced Persistence. Students indicated the primary factor that
    influenced their decisions to enroll in rigorous course-taking were their
    post-secondary goals, interests, and teachers.
  • Persistence By School District. Geographically, STEM-Interested students had the lowest persistence in rigorous course taking in both Florida’s STEM high schools and STEM Academies in rural  and STEM Academies in rural school districts in the northern area of the state (i.e., Alachua, Baker, Franklin, Gadsden, Gilchrist, Suwannee, and Washington).
  • Persistence By Race. Similar to national trends, by the 11th grade, Florida’s Asian and
    White students had the highest persistence, and Blacks and Hispanics had the lowest persistence.
    Multiracial students persisted higher than Whites in FL STEM Career Academies.
  • Persistence By Gender. Females persisted higher than males. 

This work was supported primarily by the Information Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers program of he National Science Foundation’s (NSF) under award number 1139510. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.