Educator Perceptions - Effects of STEM Programs on Academic Success: Qualitative Case Study

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Student academic success is key to education. The problem was not all middle school students, grades 6–8, across southeastern South Carolina were performing at a level of academic readiness for the next grade level. The study filled gaps in the literature by examining participants’ perceptions of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) initiatives on academic success of middle school students. The purpose was to explore perceptions of the effectiveness STEM initiatives on student academic success at three middle schools in southeastern South Carolina. Constructivist Learning Theory was the main theoretical framework of the study, along with Zone of Proximal Development and Transformational Leadership. Research questions were based on skills learned, STEM experiences, and strategies used at each school. Fifteen participants completed a questionnaire and were interviewed. Responses were evaluated as a whole. The questionnaires were completed through SurveyMonkey, while the interviews were completed over the phone. Responses were transcribed, and thematic analysis was used to identify six themes in the data: academic achievement, how critical thinking was fostered, long-term impact for students, implementation strategies, challenges in implementation, and the needs of teachers to implement initiatives. Ninety-three percent of the participants perceived STEM benefits all students by fostering critical thinking and problem-solving skills and provided real-world situations in the classroom. Recommendations were made for state and district education agencies, school principals, and college teacher preparation programs.