The Research Division of the National Education Association was born in 1922. It's purpose was to develop and use objective information about education that could be used by administrators to help "professionalize" teaching and to serve as as a means of responding to criticisms about how public schools spent taxpayer money. Over time, it would grow to provide raw data and analysis for a variety of programs and projects NEA and its affiliates were involved in. When NEA's records were transferred to George Washington University, the work of the Research Division provided one of the most useful sources of information for researchers.
Most of the material came to the archives with very little context. Often, groups of papers with no relationship come packed together in one box. One group of records to arrive in this manner were a few boxes of papers from the Research Division, unrelated by topic or even by format. Covering a time period from the late 1940s through the 1950s, they include tables, questionnaires, abstracts, hand-written notes, press releases, surveys, reports, legal analyses, newsletters, and even hotel registration forms. Most of the topics involve finances, both of school systems and individual teachers. Other topics include surveys of school legislation, religious education, and guides for foreign visitors to American schools. They vary in length from a single printed page to lengthy, well-cited reports.
With records as diverse in form and function as these, it can be difficult to classify them as a group. Together, the documents require 21 boxes for storage so it would not have been easy to group them. The documents needed to be described somehow. The decision was made to put the documents in folders titled "Essays on Research Division Topics" to represent the variety in style and matter. They can be found in the Research Division series of the NEA Collection. Despite the generic folder title, they can be a valuable resource researchers willing to dig through them.