Middle school student perceptions of STEM
Many students from groups underrepresented in STEM, including girls and minority populations, internalize messages that they cannot or will not succeed in STEM as early as elementary school or middle school. Opportunities to engage in STEM outside of school may be especially important for these populations. These opportunities can provide mentors, role models, and activities that spark interest and meaningful connections to STEM. Group activities can help form peer groups that sustain students' interest in STEM over time (1).

Middle school teacher preparation in STEM
Many middle and high school math and science teachers are not certified in the subject they teach and did not major in the field in college (2). Middle school teachers are less likely to teach in their own field, although in-field teaching has increased among middle school math teachers in recent years (3). Gaps in teacher preparation may be more pronounced in high-poverty communities with under-resourced schools (1). 

References:

1. President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. (2010). Report to the President, Prepare and inspire: K-12 education in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) for America's future. Retrieved from http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/pcast-stemed-report.pdf

2. Committee on the Study of Teacher Preparation Programs in the United States, National Research Council. (2010). Preparing teachers: Building evidence for sound policy. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

3. National Science Board. (2012). Science and engineering indicators 2012 (No. NSB 12-01). Retrieved from National Science Foundation website: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind12/pdf/seind12.pdf