V. Darleen Opfer

Vice President, RAND Education


Can the curriculum you use improve your teaching?

There have been recent calls for the development and adoption of high-quality curriculum materials. This call for more rigorous, coherent, comprehensive, and aligned curriculum materials has led to the creation of organizations that review the quality of curricula, and to states and districts incentivizing the use of them.
But the call for the use of these materials has also faced resistance from some who argue that adoption reduces teacher autonomy and job satisfaction, and will deprofessionalize teaching.
The question posed in this session is whether the use of curriculum matters to teaching and learning? Findings from a series of studies conducted by RAND to understand curriculum use by teachers will be discussed. The studies rely on national and state samples of teachers to illustrate:
• The curricular materials teachers are using and how they access them.
• Whether there is a relationship between the materials teachers use and their understanding of cognitively engaging teaching practices.
• Whether there is a relationship between the materials used and their use of cognitively engaging teaching practices with their students? And finally,
• Whether we have evidence that the use of high-quality curriculum materials improves student learning.
The presentation will also discuss the evidence we have about the kinds of supports that teachers need to be able to use high-quality curriculum.


Dr. V. Darleen Opfer is Vice President of RAND Education and Labor and the Distinguished Chair in Education Policy at the RAND Corporation. Her research focuses on understanding the conditions that support improvements in teaching and learning. She leads the TALIS Video Study for the OECD that explores the association between teaching and student outcomes in eight countries. She’s conducted a longitudinal study, with Julia Kaufman, of teachers’ implementation of state standards and curricula. And, in 2014, she launched RAND’s American Teacher Panel and American School Leader Panel; nationally representative longitudinal panels to track impacts of education policies.