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During high school, developing competence in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is critically important as preparation to pursue STEM careers, yet students in the United States lag behind other countries, ranking 35th in mathematics and 27th in science achievement internationally. Given the importance of STEM careers as drivers of modern economies, this deficiency in preparation for STEM careers threatens the United States’ continued economic progress.
In the present study, the research team evaluated the long-term effects of a theory-based intervention designed to help parents convey the importance of mathematics and science courses to their high-school–aged children. A prior report on this intervention showed that it promoted STEM course-taking in high school; in the current follow-up study, the researchers found that the intervention improved mathematics and science standardized test scores on a college preparatory examination (ACT) for adolescents by 12 percentile points. Greater high-school STEM preparation (STEM course-taking and ACT scores) was associated with increased STEM career pursuit (i.e., STEM career interest, the number of college STEM courses, and students’ attitudes toward STEM) 5 years after the intervention. These results suggest that the intervention can affect STEM career pursuit indirectly by increasing high-school STEM preparation. This finding underscores the importance of targeting high-school STEM preparation to increase STEM career pursuit.