V. Darleen Opfer

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Vice President and Director, RAND Education and Labor; Distinguished Chair in Education Policy
Washington Office


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

Media Resources

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V. Darleen Opfer is vice president and director of RAND Education and Labor and holds the Distinguished Chair in Education Policy at the RAND Corporation. She served as director of RAND Education from 2011 to 2018; 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. She recently completed the TALIS Video Study for the OECD.

Opfer recently has served as an advisor to Israel's Ministry of Education's Strategy team. She previously 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. in education from Stetson University. 

Recent Projects

  • Coherent Instructional Systems
  • TALIS Video Study of Teaching
  • Teacher Experience with Common Core Standards Implementation

Selected Publications

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

Opfer, V. Darleen, and David Pedder, "Benefits, Status and Effectiveness of Continuous Professional Development for Teachers in England," The Curriculum Journal, 21(4), 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), 2008

V. Darleen Opfer, Julia H. Kaufman and Lindsay E. Thompson, Implentation of K-12 State Standards for Mathematics and English Language Arts and Literacy: Findings from the American Teacher Panel, RAND (RR-1529), 2016

V. Darleen Opfer, Conditions and Practices Associated with Teacher Professional Development and Its Impact on Instruction in TALIS 2013, OECD, 2014


  • Children stand on smiley faces to maintain social distancing in the courtyard of a school in Paris, France, May 14, 2020, photo by Benoit Tessier/Reuters

    How to Reopen Schools: Q&A with RAND Experts

    The debate over opening U.S. schools is growing more heated by the day. In this Q&A, RAND researchers discuss the different approaches for reopening, how online learning went in the spring, ways to help disadvantaged students, and more.

    Jul 23, 2020

  • Chrissy Brackett and grandson Caidence Miller learn to navigate an online learning system at her home in Woodinville, Washington, March 11, 2020, photo by Lindsey Wasson/Reuters

    Schools Pivot Online in Wake of COVID-19: Q&A with RAND Experts

    Nearly all school-age children in the United States are no longer in the classroom as districts shut down to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus. RAND education researchers discuss how this situation might exacerbate educational inequities, how districts and teachers are innovating and what they need, and what parents can do.

    Apr 2, 2020

  • Darleen Opfer, photo by Grace Evans/RAND Corporation

    Learning Is a Lifelong Process: Q&A with V. Darleen Opfer

    As vice president and director of RAND Education and Labor, V. Darleen Opfer oversees a research portfolio that ranges from early childhood education to retirement planning. In this interview, she discusses what she learned from being a teacher, the need for evidence-based practices, and the importance of lifelong learning in today's labor market.

    Dec 23, 2019

  • Closeup shot of a young man writing on a note pad

    Giving State Educators What They Need to Stand Apart—and Together

    States have an opportunity to provide better instructional materials to teachers hungry for more resources aligned with state standards. By focusing on what they agree students should learn, states could work together to build curricula and shore up other key supports.

    Apr 4, 2017 U.S. News & World Report

  • U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (center) and Vice President-elect Mike Pence (left) emerge with Betsy DeVos after a meeting at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, November 19, 2016

    Making American Education Great Will Require More Than Charter Schools

    The nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education has shone a spotlight on charter schools. While charters could become an important part of a great education system, this burst of attention poses a risk that other issues will be ignored.

    Dec 13, 2016 Dallas Morning News

  • 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

  • High school students holding a class election

    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