Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr. Elizabeth Minor


The demands of today’s workforce call for schools to prepare their students to have problem-solving skills and be critical thinkers and collaborative colleagues. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) learning has been known to cultivate, excite, and promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills in students from an early age.

This study explored the high school course selection of students who had participated in a compulsory Kindergarten to 8th grade (K-8) STEM program, called Project Lead the Way (PLTW), while in middle school. Specifically, the study compared the number of STEM and advanced mathematics and science courses that students who were exposed to this program took while in high school. It also examined the impact of PLTW on these students’ mean grades in STEM, mathematics, and science courses.

An analysis of the course enrollment revealed that participating in PLTW coursework for one or two quarters in middle school did not result in students increasing the number of STEM, advanced mathematics, and science courses taken in high school. However, the results also showed that participating in PLTW courses for one or two quarters in middle school was associated with an increased likelihood that students characterized as English Language Learners (ELL) took more STEM courses in high school. Additionally, an analysis of the academic outcomes for students who completed one or two-quarters of PLTW coursework prior to entering high school achieved higher academic grades than their historic predecessors’ grades on mathematics and science courses taken in high school.

From these findings, the researcher recommends that the state create a K-12 policy that addresses access to STEM coursework for all its students. The researcher also recommends that each district in the state creates a district policy to ensure every student has an opportunity to engage in STEM opportunities from pre-Kindergarten through high school. This study provides evidence for the continued support of heuristic approaches to learning through a compulsory K-12 STEM program in schools.