Skip to main content

National Education Association Records-Councils

Identifier: NEA1004-RG

Scope and Contents

This collection documents the councils of the NEA. The collection contains six series reflecting the offices that created or held these records. The six series are: Council for Research in Education, Council of National Organizations on Children and Youth, Higher Education Council, National Council of Education, Council on Instruction, and National Council on Teacher Retirement.


  • Creation: 1849-1983


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research. These files are restricted. Those files flagged as restricted are subject to review by Special Collections staff before being made available for research. As researchers request materials, a review of the documents will take place. Staff will remove any documents with social security numbers, employee numbers or other sensitive identifying information. Any document found including this information is closed for 90 years from date of creation, or until verifiable proof of a person’s death is given. After these documents are removed the folder will be available for research. In some cases, items may be photocopied and redacted. The redacted copy will then be placed in the publicly available folder. All other materials in a folder will be freely available for immediate use and will be marked as having been reviewed by Special Collections staff. After folders have been reviewed using these procedures and the confidential materials have been removed, the restriction shall be lifted.

Biographical/Historical note

The National Education Association (NEA) is the largest professional organization and largest labor union in the United States, representing public school teachers and other support personnel, faculty and staffers at colleges and universities, retired educators, and college students preparing to become teachers. In 2010, the NEA had 3.2 million members and is located in Washington, D.C. The group holds a congressional charter under Title 36 of the United States Code granted in 1906.

The NEA describes itself as a professional employee organization. The mission of the National Education Association is "to advocate for education professionals and to unite our members and the nation to fulfill the promise of public education to prepare every student to succeed in a diverse and interdependent world."

The NEA is a volunteer-based organization that relies upon its members to perform much of the Association's work. The members are supported by staff at the local, state, and national levels with the stated goal of "building great public schools for every student.”

In 1857, Thomas W. Valentine, president of the New York State Teachers Association, issued a nation-wide invitation to teachers to unite in Philadelphia behind a common voice for America's growing public school system. After the meeting, the National Teachers Association (NTA) was formed with a membership of about 100. Minority educators were allowed to join at the start, but women were not allowed to join until 1866.

In 1870, the NTA merged with the American Normal School Association, the National Association of School Superintendents, and the Central College Association renaming itself the National Education Association. For the first 100 years of its existence, the NEA was controlled by administrators, and worked to further the interests of the "education profession" as a whole.

In the 1960’s, after the first passage of a collective bargaining law for public employees, the NEA adopted union activities in addition to its operations as a professional association.

The NEA merged with the American Teachers Association (ATA), formerly the National Association of Teachers in Colored Schools (NATCS) in 1966.

In 1998, a proposed merger with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) failed when it was rejected by NEA's Representative Assembly. Several NEA state affiliates have merged with their AFT counterparts, effectively forming a single association.

Over the years, the NEA has been a leader in national education reform and improvement movements. It has worked to improve the education provided to American school children through lobbying and campaigning on the local and national level as well as by promoting strong teacher education programs and continuous professional assessment and development.


18.5 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Arrangement note

The collection is organized into roughly alphabetical series based upon the NEA’s organization. Records have been allocated largely to their offices of origin and reflect the work done within the offices, departments, divisions and units. Due to the immense size of the collection and the constraints placed upon the finding aid by the archival management system utilized by George Washington University, the collection was further divided up into parts.

Organized into 6 series: Council for Research in Education; Council of National Organizations on Children and Youth; Higher Education Council; National Council on Education; Council on Instruction; and National Council on Teacher Retirement.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Guide to the National Education Association-Councils records, 1849-1983
Finding aid prepared by Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

George Washington University Gelman Library
2130 H Street NW
Washington DC 20052 United States of America