The NEA as it is known today started out in 1857 as the National Teachers Association founded by forty-three educators in Philadelphia. Now the largest educational association in the world, the National Teachers Association was founded "to elevate the character and advance the interest of the teaching profession, and to promote the cause of popular education in the United States (Meyer, 387-388)." The purpose sounds good, but it didn't allow women to be members until 1866. It also didn't allow men who taught in private schools to be members.

In 1870, the National Teachers Association merged with the National Association of School Superintendents and the American Normal School Association to become known as the NEA (National Education Association). When it became the NEA (National Education Association) the requirements for admission became less exclusive. The NEA has not stopped growing since 1870. In 1957, one-hundred years after it was founded it had 700,000 members. In 1991, membership was up to 2.1 million. The 2.1 million members in 1991 consisted of approximately 55,000 who were students, 90,000 were retired members, 175,000 were school secretaries, teacher aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and custodians, 80,000 were college professors, 100,000 were guidance counselors, librarians, and administrators, and more than 1.6 million were classroom teachers. In 1995, estimated membership in the NEA was 2,300,000 (Ornstein/Levine, 60).

The NEA wants to benefit teachers and United States children, and to make the education of all Americans better. The NEA researches school problems and teachers' well being, and tries to make curriculum and instruction better. The NEA also helps other educational groups in other parts of the world.

The NEA became a union in the twentieth century to represent the members in salary and benefit negotiations. The NEA tries to help improve salaries and working conditions, make class sizes smaller, reduce teacher patrol and paper work, give teachers free planning time, and paid time off to attend educational conferences. The NEA also gives its members the right to grievance procedures and due processes to protect teachers.

In conclusion, the NEA has come a long way since its beginning in 1857. The NEA has a lot of good benefits for its various members and is helping to make the education system better for children.


Meyer, Adolphe. An Educational History of the American People. second edition.

Ornstein, Allan, and Daniel Levine. Foundations of Education. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1993.

Prepared by Christine Teeter