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Policy and Research Issues: Math and Science Education

Issue: Transition into math and science courses in high school

Policy/Practice Questions: There is a growing consensus that our nation's future economic competitiveness depends upon strengthening our students' skills in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Policy innovations to increase and retain STEM college majors have been proposed, but little is known about the factors at the secondary school level that may affect the supply of possible STEM students in college and beyond.

HSLS:09 Role:

  • By beginning with a 9th grade cohort and including information collected from school counselors, NCES collected the data necessary to study how incoming 9th-graders were led into crucial early math and science courses that affected future coursework necessary for STEM career progress. By using data collected as part of the HSLS:09 transcript component and counselor questionnaire, researchers are able to examine the course sequences that are linked with students' entering STEM fields.
  • The school counselor and parent surveys allow for a detailed investigation of coursetaking, especially in science and mathematics. Of particular interest was developing a better understanding of what factors (e.g., previous grades, test scores, parental involvement) relate to who enrolls in Algebra I by 9th grade and how this impacted the rest of the high school experience.

Issue: Under-representation of high school graduates in STEM

Policy/Practice Questions: What are the factors in secondary education that predict STEM pipeline participation in college and beyond and can be targeted through policy innovation? How can policy makers close the gender gap in STEM?

HSLS:09 Role:

  • The inclusion of interest and motivation items in the student questionnaire gave NCES a more accurate instrument for measuring key factors predicting choice of postsecondary paths, including majors and eventual careers. Coupled with the mathematics assessment's focus on algebra and the administrator/counselor surveys, HSLS:09 provided a new set of predictors at the individual level for examining continuation in the STEM pipeline.