Exploring the Foundations of the Future STEM Workforce: K–12 Indicators of Postsecondary STEM Success

Amie Rapaport, Gibson Consulting Group
Andrew Jaciw, Empirical Education
Jenna Zacamy, Empirical E

Despite being the nation's largest racial/ethnic minority, Hispanics are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)—both in college and the workplace. This REL Southwest report reviews the research to identify K–12 factors that predict students' postsecondary STEM success, particularly for Hispanic students. Postsecondary STEM success is defined as enrollment in, persistence in, and completion of postsecondary STEM majors or degrees.

Key findings

  • Taking high-level math and science courses in high school is a strong and consistent indicator of postsecondary STEM success for all student groups. However, Hispanic students are less likely than White students to take higher level math and science courses in high school.
  • Showing an interest and confidence in math and science, as early as in middle school, is also a strong indicator that students will pursue STEM degrees. However, Hispanic students pursue and earn STEM degrees at lower rates than White students, even when they have similar levels of interest and confidence in STEM.

These findings suggest that increasing Hispanic students' math and science preparation and the rates at which they take advanced math and science classes may hold promise for improving STEM outcomes. To build on these findings, REL Southwest has another study underway to examine these indicators for Hispanic students in Texas.