Jay Mathews
Pasadena, CA
Education writer and columnist


Upton Sinclair award
Eugene Meyer award
Benjamin Fine Education Awards
Education Writers Association Award

Harvard College, BA in government
Harvard University, MA
in East Asian regional studies

Jay Mathews is a Washington Post education columnist and creator of the Jay Mathews Challenge Index list, the oldest high school rankings in the country. He has won several prizes, including the Benjamin Fine Award for Outstanding Education Reporting for both features and column writing, and is the author of ten books, including the New York Times bestseller Work Hard. Be Nice..



Reviews from readers

  • Jay Mathews’s admirable optimism about American education... Yes, a visitor to our home, a worldly and skeptical sort, hefted it and looked at the title and asked me “Isn’t that awfully thick for a book about optimism regarding American public education?” Read More...
    Chester E. Finn, Jr.
    Thomas B Fordham Institute
  • Michael Barone
    For nearly four decades Jay Mathews has been prowling around America, looking for schools that work. Now he's distilled years of reporting into this Optimist's Guide, showing how innovation, inventiveness and just plain common sense is producing good results in many of America's public schools. Good medicine for anyone who's depressed about America and American education!
    Michael Barone
  • Melodee
    love this book! Brings to light the amazing AVID program- on our 3rd year of implementation at our school and it's worked wonders. If you are wondering about AVID and its effectiveness, this is a great read!
  • Christine Keefe
    I'm a product of one of the "brand name" schools that apparently rejected IB when IB first entered the US market. I'm so thankful that I googled my high school and IB together and found this book. It was so helpful in deciding against IB for my own child. I highly recommend this book for any American parent with a child considering IB. No matter what you decide it's always best to educate yourself on the history of the program and which type of school/student might benefit from the program.
    Christine Keefe
    The book came in very late, I was afraid I will not get it, but finally it came. This book tells the story of a very passionate man about his job, his teaching, and the difference that he made in hundreds or thousands of lives. It is a very good life lesson. The book was used, but I have no problem with that, nothing was missing, no pages were ripped or torn, and I make my own scribbling on it. The book is very well written, with a lot of background information.
  • Jack Baldermann
    Jay Mathews impact on American education has been positive and powerful. His latest book continues his focus on what works well and how to make a difference for our schools and students. Jay's wealth of experience and quality insights fill this excellent read. As a practitioner I found "An Optimist's Guide" to be most useful. As a person who cares about education this work was inspirational. You will enjoy and learn from this exceptional writer and his latest book.
    Jack Baldermann