Meet Education Champion, Angela Cobián

Elections | 10/24/2017

Amy Pitlik
Director of Government Relations

Angela Cobián is running to represent District 2 on Denver Public Schools Board of Education. This seat is currently held by Rosemary Rodriguez who is not seeking reelection. Angela has deep roots in the Southwest Denver community and has been endorsed by Stand for Children Colorado. Read more about Angela’s background and experience in her biography.

We asked Angela to share information about why she is running and her views on some key issues facing Denver Public Schools and here’s what she had to say. Note, responses have been edited for length.

1. Why are you running for office and what do you want to accomplish if elected?

I am running for office because I want students in District 2 to grow with the city of Denver. The students and families of southwest Denver deserve a representative who is from our community and has the experience to lead.  When I am elected, I will be able to synthesize my experiences as a student in low income schools, a teacher, and parent organizer to inform the decisions I make on the school board. Perhaps more importantly, my experiences will also lead to a community-centered approach in decision-making, where those who are impacted the most are at the table agitating and leading towards a Denver Public Schools in which “every child succeeds.”

2. What do you see as the number one challenge facing DPS?

My experiences as a first-generation college student and literacy teacher lead me to conclude that the greatest challenge facing DPS is an achievement gap couched within a greater opportunity gap. More specifically, there is an absolutely unacceptable achievement gap between our White, English as a primary language students, and economically advantaged students, and our students from lower-income families, emerging bilingual students, and students of color. As the city continues to grow, we must equip our most high-need students to grow with it while honoring the diversity of the city. This starts with ensuring all students, including those in District 2, have access to a high-quality education. The foundation of any strategy must be an irrevocable belief that all students are capable of learning and academic success. All adults in Denver Public Schools should support this belief and address student needs in a way that help them meet rigorous academic standards that prepare them with the academic foundations necessary to pursue college and/or a career.

3. How do you intend to address that issue?

My three campaign priorities address components of a high quality education that can close both the achievement and opportunity gap.

 1) College and career readiness -

Students should have the academic and social foundations to be leaders and entrepreneurs

I was the first person in my family to go to college. In high school, I took all honors classes, and was able to take advantage of important college-preparatory programs. By 2025 75% of all jobs require some college, and we need our students to be ready for those exciting jobs. Starting from the time they enter preschool, students should have a great education and real world experiences that prepare them for success after high school. Money and circumstance should not stop students from doing what they want in their future. Every student should be prepared to go to college or make the decision to pursue a career pathway.

❑   College aligned expectations and coursework from preschool to 12th grade: high quality preschool, investment in early literacy in primary school, and concurrent and dual enrollment, AP, and IB in secondary school

❑   Career access: job shadowing, apprenticeships, and internships through programs such as CareerConnect and partnerships with local labor unions

❑   College and career staff and partnerships: staff actively counseling students to help them navigate postsecondary options with organizations such as College Track and Denver Scholarship Foundation

2) Schools as community hubs -

Schools should reflect the communities they serve.

I know that parents must be partners in shaping inclusive school communities – as a community organizer, I coached parents to facilitate know-your-rights workshops on immigration and work with principals to improve conditions for families at school. I know that at their best, students, families, and communities know school as safe and welcoming place. We can support families by providing wrap around services and meaningfully engaging parents as partners. Parents are experts in their children and can be the best advocates for their child’s success.

❑   School based family liaisons at all schools in southwest Denver

❑   Community based partners with direct service providers and after/before school programs

❑   Parent programs to strengthen home-to-school connection

❑   Culturally competent schools

 3) Quality learning environments

Students and teachers require dignified places of learning and teaching.

My first day of teaching second grade students who spoke English as a second language was inside a classroom that reached 98 degrees by 10 am! I understand that we must upgrade facilities so that schools are dignified places of learning. The physical infrastructure of schools in southwest Denver require upgrades. There are students in mobile classroom units, teachers teaching in hot classrooms without air conditioning, and only one primary school has an elevator for students with disabilities. In the classroom, instruction must be aligned to the unique student profile of students in District 2. We must ensure investments are being made from a district level lead to the highest quality learning environments and experience for all students, and especially those with high needs. This means supportive classrooms for students and quality infrastructure in our school buildings!

❑   Physical upgrades to ensure physical accessibility and necessary climate systems (AC+ heat)

❑   Whole child investment: socio-emotional services

❑   Targeted support for students with learning differences, emerging multilingual students, and gifted and talented students

❑   Small class sizes

❑   Principal leadership and teacher development

4. How will you help drive urgency and student outcomes as it relates to early literacy?

The great challenge of Denver Public Schools is celebrating the growth we have achieved while maintaining a sense of urgency around meeting the goal around proficiency. I feel that sense of urgency when I think about my own second grade and third grade students entering my classroom already 1-2 years behind grade level. We worked so hard as a classroom community to grow in our literacy skills. Both years I taught, my students grew more than a typical year in their literacy. I agree that there should be a sense of urgency in reaching the 2020 plan goals and am committed to working with the other members on the board to increase the percentage of students who are reading at grade level by the third grade. I believe that DPS is on the right path overall to increasing the percentage of students who are proficient – DPS saw much greater 3rd grade ELA growth than the state average this year. The district should double down on their early literacy programs and look at what schools in the city with the greatest levels of growth are doing to replicate those efforts elsewhere. While this growth is encouraging, the district has a long way to go, and not a lot of time to do it. We should celebrate our success, but also know that we must work harder to expand on them further.

 As a school board member, I will work towards ensuring that teachers and school leaders are using evidenced-based literacy strategies in their classrooms and have a voice in the tools they have at their disposal. When I was a teacher, I had an intensive training on evidenced based literacy strategies that included the 5 essential domains of literacy. My class started with a phonics lesson and ended with comprehension. The READ Act is a great tool for school communities to maintain a sense of urgency around monitoring data and targeting resources. Teachers and school leaders should have the power to help shape how READ act dollars are spent at the school level. In this way, schools are not only using scientifically based curriculums and interventions; but also have the resources to ensure additional supports.

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