A history of McGavock High School: The creation of the comprehensive concept in Nashville, Tennessee

Kathleen Smith Harned, Tennessee State University


This study examined the creation of McGavock High School in 1971 as the first comprehensive high school in the Metro-Nashville area. The idea of comprehensive high schools originated with Dr. James Conant and was the combination of general education and vocational education into the high school setting. It was designed to provide the best education possible for all students whether they would attend college or immediately enter the work force. The study included the investigation of the early preparations made by the school board as they contacted Ray Bruce and Paul Halverson, educational consultants, to assist in preparation of the philosophy, goals, administration, organization, and curriculum for the new school. The school was to be like no other existing Metro-Nashville public school with additional, creative curriculum and varied teaching strategies. The unique procedures for hiring desired personnel were established. The building itself was innovative in its design for open space instruction and individualized learning. This study also discussed the school after its opening and the changes which have occurred in the past twenty-seven years. The curriculum encountered changes as the State Department varied its requirements. As society changed, the students' behavior and needs also changed. The physical part of the school became transformed. Various factors contributed to the comprehensive concept losing its effectiveness. The Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools have three times evaluated the McGavock High School comprehensive effort. They have suggested various recommendations for school improvement ranging from hiring additional personnel and providing more funding to physical improvements of the building. The desired outcome of this study was to provide insight into the process involved in this historic, educational endeavor. As Metro Nashville Public Schools has no archives, no previous compilation of the materials of this process were in existence. By examining and studying this document, school leaders as well as historians hopefully can better understand and provide improved teaching strategies and optimum student learning opportunities in the future.

Subject Area

Education history|Curricula|Teaching|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Kathleen Smith Harned, "A history of McGavock High School: The creation of the comprehensive concept in Nashville, Tennessee" (1998). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI9907847.