Electronic Theses and Dissertations



Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology & Research

Committee Chair

Yonghong Xu

Committee Member

Leigh Harrell-Williams

Committee Member

Karen Kitchens

Committee Member

Chris Mueller


The United States continues to lag other first-world countries in the number of students prepared to enter the STEM workforce. Research has shown that taking advanced math courses during high school better prepares students to enter college STEM programs (Byun et al., 2015; Chen, 2016). Both student and school characteristics often shape which courses students take in secondary school. Previous academic achievement and performance along with motivational factors, like expectations, math identity and self-efficacy, and students’ valuation of mathematics work concomitantly to shape students’ math course enrollments in high school (Attewell & Domina, 2008; Burkman & Lee, 2003; Maltese & Tia, 2011). Often remiss from the research are school impacts, like location, SES, and sector, which can impact course opportunities for students (Oakes & Saunders, 2004; Tyson et al., 2007; Xu & Kelly, 2020) For this study, a sample of 2,826 students from 778 United States high schools was drawn from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009. Students were evenly split between three racial/ethnic groups, Hispanic/Latinx, White, and Black, and results were analyzed separately for each group. Grounded in Situated Expectancy Value Theory, this study utilized multilevel regression modeling to examine the personal and school-level characteristics that impacted the highest math course taken during high school. Through a hierarchical model-building approach, these factors for each racial group were examined. Results revealed that for Black students, school-level characteristics were not influential, whereas for White and Hispanic/Latinx students school location and sector were impactful. For student-level characteristics, math ability was significant across all racial/ethnic groups and eighth-grade math grade and identity were significant only for some students. Findings from this study highlight the importance of a strong foundation in math to prepare students to enter STEM fields. This study provides practical implications for teachers, parents, students, and policymakers.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

Dissertation or thesis originally submitted to ProQuest.


Embargoed until 4/12/2023