Welcome from Head of School

McLean School thrives in the understanding that great minds don’t think alike.
We provide a comprehensive K-12 college preparatory program that is joyful, nurturing and, in the upper grades, increasingly rigorous. We challenge and support each student to meet her or his full potential.
Our expert teachers and small classes allow us to meet individual needs throughout our bright and creative student body. We embrace both traditional learners and ones with mild to moderate learning challenges—including dyslexia, ADHD, anxiety, and challenges related to executive functioning.
Our teachers are innovators. Creating and drawing upon a wide range of classroom approaches, they give students needed tools and support and, in turn, expect them to work hard so that they can succeed. By emphasizing each student’s strengths and interests—and by believing in each student--we build self-esteem, self-advocacy skills, and a solid academic foundation. We integrate learning support into the classroom wherever possible rather than pulling students out.
In the Upper School our students are challenged through extensive Honors and AP offerings, and they have the option of coursework at local colleges and Universities, including American University. And in all three divisions students find further expression and growth through extensive curricular and extracurricular offerings in art, music, drama, robotics, physical education and athletics.
The results are striking: 91% of parents report that their child’s self-esteem increased when they joined the school. And, our graduates routinely gain acceptance at leading colleges such as  Boston College, Case Western Reserve, Brandeis, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Smith, and Tulane. From students who begin with McLean in kindergarten to those who join us in Middle School or even Upper School, the experience is transformative, and the results inspiring.
I hope your visit to our website will lead you to visit our school. We look forward to meeting you personally and showing you, firsthand, how we transform lives.

Michael Saxenian
Head of School

Mike Saxenian, Head of McLean School and a 2018 NAIS Annual Conference Workshop Presenter, discusses how McLean approached the process of innovating to respond to an evolving marketplace, and how Boards can support transformative change at a school. Saxenian presented the workshop "Innovation and Transformation in Challenging Times" along with Steve Anthony, Board Chair at McLean School at the 2018 NAIS Annual Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Abilities Model Q & A

List of 4 frequently asked questions.

  • What is the McLean's Abilities Model®?

    McLean’s approach to education is based on the belief that all children are natural learners, but they learn in different ways. To ensure every student finds success, and an outlet for their talents, we provide a college preparatory program that incorporates high level academics, a championship-winning sports program, theater and visual arts, robotics, and service learning. Our focus on the whole child makes us very different from schools focused on learning disabilities that have highly trained teachers, similar to McLean’s, but not a full-scope program.
    The Abilities Model®is based on three principles that our expert teachers put into practice every day:

    • Recognize and teach to each individual’s unique strengths.
    • Integrate support in areas of need.
    • Understand and respond to each child’s challenges — including diagnosed learning disabilities — but never define a student by them.
  • How does the Abilities Model®work in practice, in the classroom?

    While some students at McLean are conventional learners, many others have some form of learning challenge ranging from dyslexia, anxiety and ADHD, to difficulties with organization and executive functioning. While other schools operate on a ‘disabilities model’, separating students out of the classroom to provide support, we recognize that every mind is unique and that individual variation is natural. Our teachers have the training, and our classes are small enough, to provide support inside the classroom.
    Our teachers differentiate instruction — teaching the way students learn, rather than expecting students to learn the way they teach. Our methods vary by division, but we always use research based methods and tailor instruction as necessary. As students grow, we emphasize responsibility, independence, and learning how to ask for help. Research with alumni and teachers highlights the critical importance of motivation, persistence and self-knowledge to our students’ success.
    We empower our students with specific and direct instruction in tools and techniques geared to support areas of challenge. Our approach helps students build the confidence and resilience to succeed at school, at college, and in life.
  • Expert teaching is critical to McLean’s success. What are some differentiating characteristics of McLean teachers?

    For over six decades of teaching diverse learners, McLean has created a culture of understanding and supporting every student. All Lower School teachers have a special education background and certification in Orton-Gillingham. 100% of our faculty and staff are trained in Mindfulness to reduces stress and aid focus and learning both inside and outside of the classroom. Our teachers come to McLean and stay – averaging 17 years of tenure, a true testament to their dedication and expertise.
  • What results are you seeing from this unique approach to education?

    Our results are strong. 91% of parents across all divisions report that their child’s self-esteem increased after coming to McLean. On average over half of our graduates attend colleges that US News & World Report deems “more selective” or “most selective”. Moreover, students who graduate from McLean with a B average or above boast a virtually 100% completion rate from four year colleges.

List of 1 items.

  • Biography of Michael Saxenian

    Michael Saxenian became McLean’s sixth Head of School in June, 2013. In his first five years at the School, Mike collaborated closely with the McLean community – students, parents, trustees, faculty, alumni, alumni parents and grandparents, staff, and other friends of the School – to enrich the School’s program, to raise its profile, and to grow enrollment. Program initiatives included heavy investment in professional development, a new technology platform geared around student learning needs, and innovative programming in areas such as mindfulness and robotics. Enrollment during this period grew by 25%.
    Mike serves on the Board of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), where he is the past Treasurer, and he is the Finance Chair of the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW). He recently served on the Board of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA), and was a founding Board member of the Green School Alliance (GSA).
    Prior to joining McLean, Mike served for 12 years as Assistant Head of School and Chief Financial Officer at Sidwell Friends School, where he led the master planning, design, zoning, financing, and construction of the School’s campus-wide renovations, which included a middle school building that earned the first LEED Platinum rating for a K-12 school, as well as a number of other LEED certified buildings and landscapes. Mike also designed and taught the senior elective, Global Perspectives on Economics, and helped the school triple its net assets from $40 million to $120 million.  
    Mike joined Sidwell Friends School from Discovery Communications, where he served as Vice President and General Manager of Discovery Travel Online. Prior to that he served as Vice President of Conservation Enterprise for Conservation International, and helped start and operate businesses in the fields of education and appropriate technology. He authored the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook, an 800-page resource guide to technologies for rural development with 50,000 copies in print.  
    Mike holds an MBA, an MA in Development Economics and a BA in International Relations, all from Stanford University.

K-12 College Preparatory School Supporting Bright Students’ Individual Strengths and Challenges.

McLean School is an independent, co-educational, K-12 day school serving Maryland, Washington, and Virginia. McLean has for over sixty years been helping students realize their full potential by providing a comprehensive college preparatory program that emphasizes small classes and differentiated instruction. We embrace both traditional learners and ones with mild to moderate learning challenges – dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, and challenges related to anxiety and executive functioning. Many of our students excel in some areas while benefiting from support in others.
8224 Lochinver Lane, Potomac, Maryland 20854  301.299.8277  admission@mcleanschool.org