High School Graduation


Nearly 90 percent of Ohio students graduate from high school, but the rate in Lucas County is significantly lower. Only two-thirds of our youth are graduating from high school.  Too often this means teens are not ready for the demands of work or college or career training.

Aspire has been very active working to address this challenging issue.  We have created a Graduation Network representing many of the groups impacting or impacted by high school graduation, including parents, students, teachers, career counselors and administrators.

We have conducted extensive research and learned:

  • There is a strong correlation between overall graduation rate and the percent of student population economically disadvantaged within the Lucas County districts.
  • Graduation rates are 4-5% lower for economically disadvantaged students.
  • OGT (Ohio Graduation Test) scores for reading and math are 6% lower for economically disadvantaged students.

“Students often lack parental support and are expected to perform adult responsibilities at home, including earning money and caring for younger children, all of which makes success in school difficult. Our community needs to address these fundamental issues to bring about change.”

– Donald Perryman                                  Pastor, Center of Hope

To engage local expertise and capture the voice of the community, the Aspire Graduation Network also held a series of Café Conversations with different stakeholder groups throughout East Toledo and the Old South End.  The community stakeholders included the following:

  • Waite High School Teachers/Administrators
  • Toledo-Lucas County Librarians
  • After School and Out-of-School Youth Providers
  • Mental Health and ATOD Professionals
  • Parents of Junior High and High School Youth
  • In-school High School Youth
  • Out-of-school High School-Age Youth, including court involved youth
  • Juvenile Court Professionals


Using four year graduation rates as the primary metric, Aspire’s Graduation Network set out to gather data to help put the rates in context. What were the factors impacting the statistics?  What was the true root cause of these low rates?  Poor academics? Absence? Lack of focus?

Aspire conducted multiple Café Conversations with different stakeholder groups to ask “Why?”

Teachers shared first-hand facts regarding the issues that keep students from graduating.  One particular problem that was heard over and over is that many students work long hours to help support their families or take care of younger siblings.  These “adult” responsibilities often make them late for school, keep them from accessing after-school programs, or make them too tired to attend classes.

We talked to the kids too.  We held Café Conversations with students at Waite High School, as well as the Lucas County Juvenile Court community detention group at the East Toledo Family Center.

To see more of their responses, click here.

For the café at Waite, student leaders from Young Men of Excellence and Young Women of Excellence were trained to be facilitators.  They asked their peers open-ended questions to help illuminate the challenges they face.  The students spoke freely about peer pressure, basic necessities and family life as they shared what keeps many from attaining a high school diploma.

Café conversations were also held with parents of junior high school students and high school students.  They were asked what they feel their children and families need to support students successfully graduating from high school.  The responses from parents varied from practical (e.g., books, computers and reliable transportation) to crucial supports for sociological issues like male role models and a safe neighborhood.

After café conversations with the different stakeholder groups throughout East Toledo and the Old South End, we identified three drivers of the challenge:

  • Students have increased adult responsibilities
  • Students’ basic needs are not being met
  • Students lack parental support.

We’ll be sharing more on our findings soon.  Please check back.