STEAM Education in High School and Beyond: A Quantitative Investigation of Arts and STEM Using the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009

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Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) plays an important part in the United States and global economy, but students are not persisting in STEM careers, often opting out of higher level STEM studies. Education policies and programs have witnessed an increased interest in integrating arts into STEM programs with some districts and educational institutions creating STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) programs. These programs are developed with the premise that students with creative aptitude should be engaged in STEM to boost creative thinking and problem solving in STEM fields. STEAM education is a relatively new field to education and no research links students with arts preference and their persistence into STEM after high school. This quantitative study seeks to address this gap in research utilizing data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) to determine the STEM perceptions of students with preference for arts or STEM courses and also determine their persistence in STEM after high school. Data from HSLS:09 was selected due to the large and representative sample as results of the study could be generalized to students in the United States. Surveys, a mathematic assessment, and transcript data from HSLS:09 were analyzed using correlation and multiple regression analyses. Results show that student favorite subject in ninth grade (mathematics, science, art, music, or computer science) yielded weak correlations with students’ perception of STEM. Additionally, students’ favorite subject in high school proved to be a poor predictor of most STEM persistence variables. This raises the question of why students’ preference for mathematics and science is not a stronger predictor of STEM persistence and hints at a leaky STEM pipeline from high school into college. Additionally, art and music often negatively correlated to STEM preference variables illustrating the lack of student efficacy and interest in STEM. This study serves as an illustration of the status quo in STEM and arts inclined students and STEM perceptions as well as STEM longevity.