Message 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 and nurturing, while challenging each student to meet her or his full potential.
We accomplish this with expert teachers, in small classes, with an average of fewer than 12 students, allowing us to adapt our approach to meet students' needs. We embrace both traditional learners and ones with mild to moderate learning challenges—including dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, anxiety, and challenges related to executive funtioning. Our students often excel in one or more areas while benefiting from support in others.
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. A fundamental aspect of our approach is to 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 - or through One Schoolhouse's Online Independent School. And in all three divisions students find further expression and growth through extensive curricular and extracurricular offerings in art, music, dramaSTEM/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 Berklee College of Music, Boston College, Brandeis, Case Western Reserve, Duke, Johns Hopkins, Smith, and Tulane. Over the last 3 years, our seniors have received mostly merit-based scholarship offers, totaling over $4 million dollars. 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

The McLean Method Q & A

List of 5 frequently asked questions.

  • What is the McLean Method and Abilities ModelTM?

    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 civic education. Our focus on the whole child makes us very different from specialized learning disability schools that have highly trained teachers, similar to McLean’s, but narrow programs.
    At the heart of this “McLean Method” is our Abilities ModelTM approach to academics; 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 ModelTM 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 such students out 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 primarily in-class.
    Our teachers differentiate instruction to meet individual needs — 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, and when appropriate, utilize assistive technologies. Our approach helps students build the confidence and resilience to succeed at school and in life.
  • Expert teaching is critical to McLean’s success. What tools do you give teachers to succeed?

    We believe in hiring the most qualified and caring teachers, continuing to provide them with extensive professional development opportunities, and creating a mentorship program that enables teachers to share best practices with each other . All Lower School teachers, for example, have a special education background and certification in Orton-Gillingham. For over six decades of teaching diverse learners, McLean has created a culture of understanding and supporting every student. Our teachers come to McLean and stay – averaging 19 years of tenure, a true testament to their dedication and expertise.
  • What else contributes to the success of the McLean Method?

    There are many answers, but two of the most important are that we create a safe environment for all students and we teach them how to succeed. Our Head of Upper School, Dr. Josephine Diemond, recently completed dissertation research that confirmed how highly our students value learning the critical life skills of grit, resilience, independence, and self-advocacy, as well as the central importance of relationships built with teachers at McLean.
    We set the bar high in academics — offering 13 AP classes and honors courses in every discipline — while preparing young adults for college and beyond. Our students engage in the local community from the Lower School on, and we teach cyber citizenship in partnership with Common Sense Media. McLean is also a national leader in teaching mindfulness, an approach that has been proven to support learning.
  • What results are you seeing from this unique approach to education?

    Our results are strong. In 2017, 91 percent of parents across all divisions reported that their child’s self-esteem rose after coming to McLean. Academically our students excel, with 55% of the 2017 graduating class entering 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.
    Throughout our website, you'll see many parent testimonials we receive that bring these statistics to life. They demonstrate why everyone who works at McLean is eager to come here every day, and why we believe so strongly in the McLean Method.

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  • Biography of Michael Saxenian

    Michael Saxenian is the sixth Head of McLean School, an independent, co-educational, K-12 day school serving the Washington, DC metropolitan area. McLean has for sixty years been helping students realize their full potential by providing a comprehensive college preparatory program that emphasizes small classes, differentiated instruction, and individualized program enhancement.
    Mike also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), and is a past board member of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA).
    He holds an MBA, an MA in Development Economics and a BA in International Relations, all from Stanford University.
    Prior to joining McLean, Mike served for 12 years as Assistant Head of School and Chief Financial Officer at Sidwell Friends School. Mike 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 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.  

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