“We know that all groups of children can learn and all groups can achieve at high levels,” he told an audience of about 200 school district administrators, lobbyists and Department of Education officials. “So now we need to consider whether, institutionally, low expectations or other factors are holding specific groups of children back.” The superintendent, who was elected to a second term in June, said he “refuses to accept the assumption” that students from poor neighborhoods, those with learning disabilities or those with parents who don’t speak English can’t meet the same academic targets as others. Blacks, Hispanics and students learning English in California typically lag their white and Asian counterparts by as much as 30 percentage points on standardized math and English tests. The biggest obstacle for poor and minority students is a lack of quality teachers, said John Affeldt, managing attorney for Public Advocates, a nonprofit San Francisco law firm that has sued the state over several education equality issues. State Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, said she appreciated the blunt discussion of race and class in schools but noted that the overall tone of O’Connell’s annual address was celebratory. She said such optimism is not warranted for many of the school districts in her area. SACRAMENTO – Raising questions about racial bias in California’s public schools, state schools superintendent Jack O’Connell on Tuesday said low expectations for black and Hispanic students contribute to their persistent achievement gap with whites and Asians. O’Connell said teachers and administrators need “a renewed sense of urgency” to close that gap and must evaluate whether they hold all students to the same standards. “Let’s approach the job as if our own child were attending a low-performing school,” O’Connell said in his annual state of education address. “We wouldn’t be patient with our own children lagging behind. We must not be patient when any child does.” It was unusually frank language for the typically congenial state superintendent of public instruction. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!