V. Darleen Opfer

Photo of V. Opfer
Director, RAND Education; Distinguished Chair in Education Policy; Professor, Pardee RAND Graduate School
Pittsburgh Office


Ph.D. in education policy studies, University of Virginia; M.Ed. in behavior disorders, University of Virginia; B.A. in education, Stetson University

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V. Darleen Opfer is director of RAND Education and holds the Distinguished Chair in Education Policy at the RAND Corporation. She is also a professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. She has served as director of RAND Education since 2011; from 2005 to 2011, she was director of research and senior lecturer in research methods and school improvement at the University of Cambridge's (England) Faculty of Education. Opfer has conducted policy research studies for a number of local, state, and national governments on issues that affect teachers and schools, including recruitment and retention, professional development, and impact of policies on teacher practice. In 2014, she was selected as a Thomas J. Alexander Fellow by the OECD where she used TALIS 2013 data to explore conditions that support teacher professional development. Her research also includes national studies of teacher professional development for England and Turkey, a study of teacher professional development and its relationship to school outcomes in six U.S. states, and a study of recruitment and retention of teachers and school leaders for the Scottish Government.

Opfer currently serves as a research study advisor to the Institute for Social Science in Zagreb, Croatia. She served as an advisor to the National Council for Education Research and Training, India. She also served as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development, working on the Increased Access to Quality Education and Training Initiative in South Africa. Opfer is the author of numerous books, reports, and journal articles and has presented to practitioners, researchers, and policymakers worldwide. Opfer holds a Ph.D. in education policy studies from the University of Virginia and B.A. from Stetson University.

Recent Projects

  • Recruitment and retention of school leaders in Scotland
  • Teacher professional development in England
  • Globalization and the international context for literacy policy reform in England

Selected Publications

Opfer, V. Darleen, and David Pedder, "The Lost Promise of Teacher Professional Development in England," European Journal of Teacher Education, 34(1):3-24, 2011

Opfer, V. Darleen, and David Pedder, "Benefits, Status and Effectiveness of Continuous Professional Development for Teachers in England," The Curriculum Journal, 21(4):413-431, 2010

Opfer, V. Darleen, Gary T. Henry, and Andrew J. Mashburn, "The District Effect: Systemic Responses to High Stakes Accountability," Journal of American Education, 114(2):299-332, 2008


  • teacher with elementary school student

    Grading Teachers

    Research is starting to demonstrate that teaching, like all professions, is something that can be learned, continuously improved upon, and subject to the conditions under which it occurs, writes V. Darleen Opfer.

    Jan 16, 2013 IFC's Handshake

  • teenager with laptop

    Nine Lessons on How to Teach 21st Century Skills and Knowledge

    Despite widespread agreement among parents, educators, employers and policymakers worldwide that students need skills like critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork and creativity, these skills are stubbornly difficult to teach and learn, write Anna R. Saavedra and V. Darleen Opfer.

    Oct 19, 2012 Education Week

  • Chicago teachers on strike

    Consider the Evidence

    The Chicago Teachers Union strike erupted over classic issues: an extended day, a new evaluation system and hiring and firing. Yet, somewhat classically, neither the union nor Chicago Public Schools has put forth research evidence to support their stance, writes Darleen Opfer.

    Sep 11, 2012 Chicago Tribune

  • Lessons from the Science of Learning for 21st-Century Schools

    To succeed in the 21st century, students need to be able to communicate, collaborate, and problem-solve with people beyond national boundaries. Director of RAND Education Darleen Opfer describes how teachers can teach 21st-century skills, using nine lessons from the science of learning.

    Sep 7, 2012

  • Maintaining Accountability and Nurturing Innovation Through a Reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act

    In this Congressional panel briefing RAND researchers discuss the possible reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA)--how it will require several critical decisions about standards, assessments, reporting requirements, and school improvement initiatives.

    May 31, 2012