Professional Biography

Dr. Johanek is a Senior Fellow at the Graduate School of Education (GSE), University of Pennsylvania, where he is also Director of the Mid-Career Doctoral Program in Educational Leadership; Co-Director of the Inter-American Educational Leadership Network; founding Director of the Penn Educational Leadership Simulations (PELS) Program; and affiliated faculty for the International Educational Development Program, and Education, Culture and Society Division. He teaches as Profesor Invitado Internacional at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Before coming to Penn in the spring of 2007, he served as Vice President of Professional Services for Teachscape, a for-profit blended technology services company, where he managed all service engagements nationally. He is the former Executive Director for K-12 Professional Development, The College Board, where he managed programs supporting over 500,000 middle and high school teachers, college faculty, coordinators, and administrators, including those involved in the Advanced Placement Program. He founded, developed, and managed a program development and operations department with responsibilities including new product development, in-person training, web services, electronic and print publications, regional office operational support, marketing and research. A former high school teacher in Cleveland, New York, and Lima, Peru, he taught in and managed the Fellows in Teaching Program and Urban Fellow Program at Teachers College, Columbia University prior to joining the College Board.

Dr. Johanek currently serves on the board of The Loyola School (NYC), and on the Advisory Group for the Inter-American Teacher Education Network (AGITEN), Organization of American States; he previously served on the Advisory Council of the Penn Center for Educational Leadership and on the board of Research for Action, a non-profit organization engaged in education research and evaluation. Prior to serving as a reviewer for the U.S. Department of Education in the 2010 and 2012 Race to the Top competitions, he served on the department’s Working Group for Postsecondary Linkage Efforts to Improve College Readiness and on the independent Annenberg Commission on Public Schools for their Institutions of Democracy Project. He served as co-PI and advisor in several National Science Foundation-funded professional development research projects, on the National Education Advisory Board for the French & Indian War 250th Anniversary Commemoration, and on the Organization of American Historians-Advanced Placement Joint Advisory Board on Teaching the U.S. History Survey. He served on the Alumni Council at Teachers College, Columbia University, and on the Board of Trustees of The Concord Review. He has recently served as a peer reviewer for AERA, UCEA, Educational Researcher, Theory and Research in Education, Journal of School Leadership, the History of Education Society, and the Fondo de Investigaciones Educativas (PREAL). He co-founded Ed Leadership Sims, LLC, and founded Sapience, LLC, serving on the boards of both. He has taught at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Education and consulted for school districts.

Research Interests and Current Projects

Current interests include the history of recent educational reforms, especially school choice; community-centered and place-based approaches to education; citizenship development, especially youth engagement and the role of schooling; and educational leadership development in the U.S. and Latin America.

Dr. Johanek co-authored Making Up Our Mind: What School Choice is Really About with Sigal Ben-Porath (University of Chicago Press, 2019), which provides philosophical and historical perspectives on school choice in the U.S. He recently completed a volume of practitioner research, with co-editors Susan Lytle, “Torch” Lytle, and Kathy Rho, entitled Repositioning Educational Leadership: Practitioners Leading from an Inquiry Stance (Teachers College Press, 2018) that focuses on educational leadership.

With Spencer Foundation support, Dr. Johanek is examining recent educational reform by investigating the history of a Chicago neighborhood organization serving Mexican-American communities and associated with an extensive charter school network. In addition, he recently served on a research and development team with Catholic University colleagues in Chile for the project, "Prototipo y validación de una plataforma virtual de competencias directivas de liderazgo instruccional para contextos escolares basado en métodos de análisis de desempeño directivo," and was awarded a Fulbright grant to support his work there.

Dr. Johanek co-teaches a MOOC, “American Education Reform: History, Policy and Practice,” with John Puckett, focused on the utility of history in understanding current school reform.


Ed.D. Teachers College, Columbia University, 1995.

M.A. Teachers College, Columbia University, 1988. 

B.A. (Economics) Georgetown University, 1982.

Areas of Expertise

History of U.S. education
Educational leadership
School-community relationship
Civic education

Making Up Our Mind: What School Choice is Really About. The University of Chicago Press, 2019.


Repositioning Educational Leadership: Practitioners Leading from an Inquiry Stance. Teachers College Press, 2018.

Penn GSE's Mike Johanek & Michigan State's Rebecca Jacobsen discuss Betsy DeVos's nomination for US Secretary of Education. Originally aired on 12/17/16 by Wharton Business Radio (@BizRadio111).
Click here to listen.

Read about Dr. Johanek's book Leonard Covello and the Making of Benjamin Franklin High School

A Faithful Mirror - Reflections on the College Board and Education in America, editor. The College Board, 2001.

Selected Publications

Johanek, Michael C. and Ken Spero. “The silent crisis of leadership in education.” SmartBrief, November 13, 2019.

“Tips From the Educator’s Playbook:  Decision Making for School Leaders.”  Penn GSE Magazine, Spring, 2019.

Ben-Porath, S., & Johanek, M. (2019). Making up our mind: What school choice is really about. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Lytle, J., Lytle, S., Johanek, M., & Rho, K. (2018). Repositioning educational leadership: Practitioners leading from an inquiry stance. New York: Teachers College Press.

Bernstein, E., McMenamin, S. A., & Johanek, M. C. (2016). Authentic online branching simulations: Promoting discourse around problems of practice. In P. Dickenson, & J. J. Juarez, (Eds.), Increasing productivity and efficiency in online teaching. IGI Global.

Johanek, M. C. (2015). A ‘backchannel’ for distributing leadership. School Administrator, 72(10), 57.

Johanek, M. (2015, April 5). Gestión de redes profesionales. La Tercera.

Johanek, M. (2014). Getting to the balcony from Chile. School Administrator, 71(11), 41.

Johanek, M. (2014). The public leadership gap. School Administrator, 71(3): 44.

Johanek, M. (2012, August 5). Gestión colaborativa. La Tercera.

Johanek, M. (2012, April 22). Comunidades de aprendizaje. La Tercera. 

Johanek, M. (2012). Preparing pluribus for unum: Historical perspectives on civic education. In D. Campbell, F. Hess, & M. Levinson, (Eds.), Making civics count: Citizenship for a new generation. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Johanek, M. (2011, April). Conocer el entorno. La Tercera.

Johanek, M. (2011). To reform education, look beyond the schools. Penn GSE Commentary. University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.

Johanek, M., Volante, P., Mladinic, A., Lincovil, C., & Fernández, M. (2011). Diseño de Assessment Center para la selección de equipos directivos en establecimientos educacionales. Propuestas Para Chile. Pontifica Universidad Católica de Chile.

Johanek, M., & Lytle, J. (2010). Reinventing leaders for a new era in education management. District Management Journal (Fall), 22-28. 

Johanek, M., & Puckett, J. (2009). Leonard Covello. In E. F. Provenzo, Jr., (Ed.), Encyclopedia of the social and cultural foundations of education. Sage Publications.

Benson, L., Harkavy, I., Johanek, M., & Puckett, J. (2009). The enduring appeal of community schools. American Educator (Summer), 24-32.

Johanek, M. (2009). School reform that matters. GSE: A Review of Research (Fall), 1-9. 

Johanek, M., & Puckett. J. (2007). Leonard Covello and the making of Benjamin Franklin High School: Education as if citizenship mattered. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.