Students with disabilities perform below their non-disabled peers in science (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2011; National Educational Longitudinal Study [NELS], 1998; National Science Foundation [NSF], 2013). The achievement gap is a problem because the nation's competitiveness depends on individuals with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) knowledge, skills, and abilities to drive innovation that will lead to new products and economic growth (Business-Higher Education Forum [BHEF]/Act Policy Brief, 2014; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2016; National Science Board, 2015). If Florida is to continue to grow and prosper, all students, including students with disabilities must be prepared for the economy they will inherit. The purpose of the current study was to determine if informal science learning activities offered in Florida school districts impact students with disabilities (SWD) performance on the 8th Grade Florida science assessment. The researcher posed four research questions. The first research question determined whether a statistically significant difference existed between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers on the 8th Grade Florida Science Assessment. The researcher found a statistically significant difference of students without disabilities outperforming their peers with disabilities. The second and third research questions were analyzed using survey responses from STEM personnel in each Florida district. The questions evaluated the percentage of SWD who participate in STEM activities. Findings indicated most districts do not track the number of SWD who participate in STEM activities. The third research question determined the type of SWD who participated in STEM activities. The largest category represented in STEM activities was students with learning disabilities. The last research question asked if there was a correlation between the number of STEM activities offered in a district and the results of the 8th Grade Statewide Science Assessment for SWD. Results indicated a small positive correlation. The researcher identified areas for future research, as well as recommendations and implications of the results from the study.


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Graduation Date





Marino, Matthew


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Education and Human Performance

Degree Program

Education; Exceptional Education









Release Date

August 2016

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)