V. Darleen Opfer

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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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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. Before joining RAND in April 2011, she served on the faculty of education at the University of Cambridge in England, where she was director of research and senior lecturer in research methods and school improvement. Opfer has conducted policy research studies for a number of local, state, and national governments on the recruitment, retention, and professional learning of educators. This includes a national, mixed-method, study of the recruitment and retention of school leaders in Scotland. She also completed three annual studies for the Ohio Department of Education on the recruitment, retention, and distribution of educators as well as an additional study on factors influencing attrition. Her work includes teacher professional development conducted for the Training and Development Agency in England and the Turkish Education Foundation. She also conducted a study of teacher professional development and its relationship to school outcomes in six states which was funded by the Spencer Foundation. She currently serves as an advisory board member with the National Council of Educational Research and Training in Delhi, India. She served as a consultant for the U.S. Agency for International Development working on the Increased Access to Quality Education and Training Initiative at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Opfer holds a Ph.D. in education policy studies and an M.Ed. in special education from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, and a B.A. in education from Stetson University in Deland, Florida.

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