A Rutherford County high school principal facing sharp criticism from the community is defending his academic intervention program.
Some parents have called the La Vergne High School program, which separates students who are struggling academically during their lunch period, segregation, but Principal Dirk Ash says the program is just misunderstood.
Under the program, every student in the school is given 25 minutes for lunch. After that time, students scoring below an 80% in any subject are required to take another 25 minutes to study in a learning lab.
Students in good academic standing can stay in the cafeteria or participate in other enrichment activities for another 25 minutes.
Robert Willis has been a teacher at La Vergne High School since the late 1980s and has worked for every principal since the school first opened.
He is supportive of the program.
"It's not segregation, it's extra help and I think a lot of schools are looking at that time to add remediation and we found a way to put it into our lunch schedule and that's probably a more productive way of doing it," Willis told News 2 Friday.
He continued, "I think the perception is different than the reality. I think people are making more out of it. I think he's really trying to help the kids."
The numbers show significant growth.
From 2012 to 2013, students have shown more than 12% growth in English, 10% growth in math and 4.6% growth in science.
Principal Ash, who was hired by La Vergne four years ago to raise test scores and academic achievement, says students have made great gains but the school still has a long way to go.