Meet Our Researchers: Ben Cronkright

BlogHealthy SchoolsMar 27 2024

Ben Cronkright is a senior technical assistance specialist.

Ben, can you start by briefly telling us about your research activities and responsibilities at Child Trends?

I lead the development of research-practice partnerships and consider ways to support school teams and education systems with continuous improvement to support implementation of innovative practices.

Can you tell us about your primary research interest(s)?

My interests focus on action research, improvement science, continuous quality improvement, and building coherent supports across various levels of the education system (i.e., classroom, school, district, and state agencies) to improve student outcomes and experiences. I’m interested in strengthening and improving practitioners’ relationships with research to better understand, implement, and improve the various practices and programs intended to support students’ growth, development, and education experiences.

What sparked your interest in action research and improvement science?

For part of my career, I was a practitioner myself—at the school level as a teacher and a principal, all the way to the state education agency level. At every point in my career, I’ve seen a huge need for technical assistance that can build coherence across different systems working toward the same goal of improving outcomes and experiences for students. Research is valuable to practitioners, and research and research methods can help those in education understand what interventions can work, for whom, and under what conditions.

As a school administrator, I introduced a clear evidence-based program intervention that involved coaching teachers to improve instruction—an intervention that did not make the intended difference. Through improvement science, we studied why the intervention did not work as expected, how to build a coherent implementation design, and what adjustments would work within our specific context.

What books or journal articles have most influenced you?

Three nonfiction books have most influenced my career and interests: Education Leaders Guide to Improvement Science by Crow, Hinnet-Crawford, and Spaulding; Learning to Improve by the Carnegie Foundation; and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. Outliers dives into my own field of work in youth development and education—and into specific aspects of my work, such as the conditions that make students outliers throughout their K-12 journey (e.g., academics and sports).

What are your hobbies or interests outside of research?

I love any kind of outdoor recreational activity, from hiking to biking to trail running! I also enjoy water sports and following team sports, especially football and baseball. I surf on Lake Michigan when possible and enjoy paddleboarding. Outside of sports, I also love travel and music.

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