Especially at this time of year, as students have recently returned to school, there is high enthusiasm about their prospects for academic success -- as there very well should be. Our students are not dumb, after all. Young people from the most privileged backgrounds as well as those from the humblest of families are bright, capable and full of energy, and they can achieve amazing things with the right guidance, discipline and instruction.
But we cannot get students on the right path if we do not first acknowledge that too many of them are not yet living up to their intellectual potential.
It is troubling to learn that scores among Tennessee high school students who took the ACT college entrance exam this year were down. The average composite score fell from 19.6 to 19.5. That put our state ahead of only Mississippi in achievement on the ACT.
Unfortunately, things are even worse in Hamilton County. Students here got an average composite score of only 18.7, compared with the statewide average of 19.5. On the positive side, although scores here were lower than they were across the state, there was slight improvement in our local scores, which rose from 18.6 in 2010.
But ACT also issued other warnings about Tennessee students' academic preparation. Not even half of students in the state are ready to do college-level algebra, social science and biology, for instance, and only 58 percent are ready for college-level English composition.
Those troubling statistics put Tennessee far below national averages, and they do not bode well for students' chances of eventually earning a college degree.
"These results are unacceptable, and we have to do more to ensure that our high school students' academic results align with their aspirations," read a statement from Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman.
Sadly, it would be hard to dispute that.