De’Jona Spencer

When we talk about truancy and chronic absenteeism the issue is most often discussed at the middle and high school level, but it surprisingly relevant to elementary schools. Nationwide, nearly 10 percent of kindergartners and first graders are chronically absent. In some communities, chronic early absenteeism can affect a quarter of all students in kindergarten through third grade.

Missing school – at whatever level – has consequences for children. Research has shown that chronic absences in kindergarten and first grade leads to lower performance in third grade, which is tied to decreased attendance in sixth and ninth grade and an increased risk of dropping out.

In early October, Ingrid deRoo checked over the absentee lists at George Mason Elementary. As the CIS Site Coordinator, her role is to identify and follow up with students who are accumulating absences before it becomes an issue. De’Jona, a spirited third grader, stood out with eleven absences in the first six weeks of school.

Ingrid sought out De’Jona and invited her to join George Mason’s Jaguars Can Attend, Achieve and Excel Announcement Team. This honor (and CIS attendance initiative) helps kids arrive for school early and ready to deliver the morning announcements to the school.

Says De’Jona, “Ms. deRoo came to my classroom because I had missed a lot of days the first weeks of school and said you cannot miss any more days of school – I am going to help you and you are going to help me.”

Over the year, this responsibility has taught De’Jona to be at school on time and to speak with the four key words of the team: Articulation, Enthusiasm, speak Slowly and Loudly. De’Jona has turned her participation into a great leadership opportunity, coaching another person on the team.

The Announcement Team became the opening for Ingrid to learn more about De’Jona and her mother. Together they identified additional CIS services to support De’Jona’s ongoing success at school including

  • one-to-one weekly reading tutoring;
  • monthly Blue Sky Fund science field trips;
  • and holiday assistance.

These supports have contributed to De’Jona’s success as a student. Her attitude towards school continues to improve, but above all her confidence in her abilities and desire to be a vital part of the George Mason family keep her moving on!

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