Sarah McLean
Chief Operating Officer

Sarah McLean supports leaders across the sector to establish and assess their value proposition and better align their organizational systems, structures and resources to deliver the high-quality education all families and students deserve. This includes supporting organizations like the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, Stanford’s Understanding Language and SCALE define their strategic plan to expand their impact.

Sarah supports Education First in a similar way, supporting a data- and discovery-driven approach to planning, supporting our organization to remain at the cutting edge of relevant research, practice and policy.

As a first-generation college student, Sarah has first-hand experience in what quality educators can mean for the life of a child. Having been a teacher and leader in Baltimore for over a decade, Sarah has witnessed both the fulfilled and the broken promises of public education. She is motivated to ensure all students – including her own – have access to high-quality learning experiences that will prepare them for the demands of the 21st century.

Sarah worked as the Chief of Staff to Teach for America’s national team that manages the organization’s 50+ regions. Her relationship with Education First began in 2010 when she hired the organization to support Baltimore City’s reform agenda, as Special Assistant to the then-CEO Dr. Andrés Alonso. In addition to her doctorate from Harvard’s Ed.L.D. program, Sarah holds an M.A.T. from Johns Hopkins University and a B.A. in Communications from Penn State.

Sarah lives in Cambridge, MA with her husband, 3 children and teenage nephew. She and her family can be found most weekends playing dress-up, building Legos or volunteering at kids’ church.

Sarah's expertise

  • Strategy Development and Implementation Support
  • Organizational Change Management and Adaptive Leadership
  • Design Thinking and Organizing for Innovation
  • School Desegregation and Integration
  • School System Governance and Management

Recent clients

  • Carnegie Corporation
  • Smarter Balanced
  • Understanding Learning/SCALE

Start-Up Co-Founder

  • MathWorks (Baltimore)
  • The Transforming Teaching Project (HGSE)
  • The Re-Imagining Integration Project (HGSE)
  • Today Is a Good Day

Sarah likes



  • Summer, dinnertime picnics in the park

  • Hiking and skiing in the White Mountains of New Hampshire