Cooking Competition is the Ultimate Challenge for Nutrition and Health Students

A spicy Indian soup topped with chickpeas was the winning dish of an Iron Chef-inspired cooking competition held at NYU’s Steinhardt School. But instead of chefs, the competitors were 10 speech-language pathology students and 10 nutrition students who were creating food for patients with dysphagia.

Dysphagia was the focus of an interdisciplinary elective course designed to teach students about the complex needs patients with difficulty swallowing in eating and drinking.  The course was taught by Erin Embry, associate director of the master’s program in the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, and Lisa Sasson, clinical associate profressor of nutrition and food studies.

“The primary objective of this course is for students to have interdisciplinary clinical training. This is really important so that when they go out and do this work, they feel really comfortable and exposed to working with a team,” said Embry.

“When students are looking at a patient, they shouldn’t be looking at it from their own ‘bubble,’ foregoing the importance of good nutrition and really tasty food, even though the patient might have limited diet textures.”

The course turned theory into practice when groups of students were assigned to case studies of semi-fictional patients with dysphagia – for example, a teenager with a traumatic brain injury from a car accident, or an older adult who had a stroke.

The teams reviewed barium swallows for their cases to measure the degree of difficulty their patients had when swallowing, and then determined the consistency of liquids and foods that could be tolerated.

During the final class on Jan. 22, the groups competed head-to-head for the title of “Dysphasia Iron Chef.” The teams were tasked with preparing meals suitable for the patients in their cases, taking into account their swallowing, nutritional and medical needs, as well as cultural and personal preferences.

Their challenge – which was not a small one – was to create appetizing food that met these criteria.

The six judges – including a speech-language pathologist, nutritionist, physiatrist, reality cooking show producer, and celebrated chef – deliberated over five dishes. They ultimately chose curried soup prepared for an older adult from India who was suffering from Alzheimer’s and was limited to a Dysphagia Level 1 Diet, or pureed diet. The team creatively topped the spicy soup with chickpeas that had been cooked, pureed, and reformed using a thickener, which helped to bring an aesthetic quality to the dish that the patient had been missing in his nursing home’s food.

Steinhardt’s January term Dysphagia courses have inspired NYU Langone Medical Center’s patient food services to implement changes in the hospital’s menu, including adding new recipes and improving the food’s presentation.

“Food is nurturing, and too often it’s assumed that when someone is sick we should just give them calories and nutrients. That’s not what food is, and we wanted to emphasize in this course that regardless of a medical condition, we should always think about the importance of food – especially when someone’s sick,” said Sasson.

“Sometimes that’s the one thing they look forward to all day,” she said.

Research by Steinhardt Faculty Member Shows How Technology Supports Teachers in Curriculum Design

Camillia Matuk

Teachers’ involvement in curriculum design is essential for sustaining the relevance of technology-enhanced learning materials. Customizing—making small adjustments to tailor materials to particular situations and settings—is one design activity in which busy teachers can engage.

A study by Camillia Matuk, assistant professor of educational communication and technology, examines the role that technology plays in supporting teachers in their design activities.

Research indicates that customizations based in students’ ideas improve learning outcomes. Matuk’s study examines ways that the Web-based Inquiry Science Environment (WISE,, an open-source curriculum platform used by tens of thousands of teachers and students worldwide, makes student ideas available to inform design decisions. Using classroom video and field note observations, interviews, and teachers’ curriculum artifacts, Matuk and co-authors Marcia Linn and Bat-Sheva Eylon developed four case studies of middle and high school teachers during week-long science inquiry units.

The researchers found several ways teachers customize their materials: devising timely instructional interventions to provide individualized guidance; planning activities and adjusting milestones to align with students’ progress; modifying existing materials to better integrate content into overall curriculum plans; and embedding supports to better address students’ needs.

They also identified three technology features that supported teachers’ customizations: a system that logs student work for teachers’ inspection; tools for tracking student learning and progress; and an authoring environment that supports the re-design of units.

The study is part of an upcoming special issue of Instructional Science on “Teachers as designers of technology-enhanced learning.” Together with other papers in the issue, it builds on the idea that involving teachers in the design of curriculum materials is crucial for their implementation in classrooms, for their sustainability in the long term, and for their positive impact on student learning. The work will also be presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association in Chicago in April 2015.

It is currently available as ‘Online First’ on SpringerLink:

By Rachel Harrison





Steinhardt Vocal Performance Program Presents ‘A Man of No Importance,” Feb. 5 – 9

NYU Steinhardt’s Program in Vocal Performance today announced it will present A Man of No Importance, the award-winning musical, on February 5–9, 2015. The show features book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. John Simpkins directs.

A Man of No Importance was developed from the 1994 film of the same name and tells the story of Alfie Byrne, a bus driver in 1964 Dublin who recites poetry to his passengers. He is also the director of the community theatre, which rehearses and performs in the neighborhood church social hall. Alfie’s passengers are also his actors: amateurs who come to see the magic and power of theatre. Alfie’s heart, however, holds secrets he can’t share with anyone but an imagined Oscar Wilde. When he attempts to put on a production of Salome in the social hall, he is forced to deal with bigotry and shame over a love “that dare not speak its name.” The musical originally premiered at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater in 2002, with a cast that featured Roger Rees as Alfie Byrne and included Faith Prince and Steven Pasquale.

NYU’s production of A Man of No Importance runs February 5–7 at 8 p.m., February 7–8 at 3 p.m., and February 9 at 8 p.m. at the Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 West 4th Street). Tickets are $20 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. The performance on Monday, February 9, is a special “Industry” performance, where attendees presenting a union card (AEA, SDC, USA, SAG) will be admitted free. The Industry performance will also include a pre-show audience discussion with special guests from the Broadway community.

A Man of No Importance features music direction by James Cunningham, choreography by Jennifer Werner, scenic design by Josh Smith, lighting design by Chris Dallos, costume design by Michelle Eden Humphrey, and sound design by Craig Kaufman. The production stage manager is E Sara Barnes and dialect coach is Evan Mueller. The cast features NYU Steinhardt students Steph Bacon, Ben Bartels, Ross Brown, Nick Case, Donald Coggin, Dan Corica, John Fitzpatrick, Dylan Landau, Alyssa LeClair, Delaney Parker, AnnMarie Powers, Maureen Regan, Matt Ross, Wayne Shuker, and Kaylee Verble.

For tickets, contact NYU Box Office at, call the box office at 212.998.4941, or visit in person at 566 LaGuardia Place (at Washington Square South).


Disruptive Children Benefit from Tailored Classroom Intervention, Finds Study Led by NYU Steinhardt Researchers

Young children with disruptive behaviors have fewer opportunities to learn in school than their focused peers, and are at risk for lower levels of academic achievement. These children often have high maintenance temperaments, characterized by high physical activity, low ability to persist at tasks, and negative reactions to even minor situations.

A new study in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly finds that kindergartners and first graders with high maintenance temperaments showed less disruptive behavior and more active engagement and on-task behavior in the classroom, thanks to a program that helps teachers, parents, and students recognize and adapt to individual differences.

Led by researchers at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, the study builds upon recent findings that the same program generally improves the behavior and academic skills of children and helps shy students be more engaged in their classwork.

“High maintenance” is one of four temperaments identified in INSIGHTS into Children’s Temperament, an intervention designed by McClowry to help teachers and parents match environmental demands to a child’s nature. The program provides a framework for appreciating and supporting differences in the personalities of children, rather that trying to change them. Participants in the program learn to recognize four temperaments: shy, social and eager to try, industrious, and high maintenance.

“By reducing the disruptive behaviors of children with high maintenance temperaments, teachers can create classrooms more conducive to learning – which benefits both students and teachers,” said Meghan McCormick, a doctoral student in NYU Steinhardt’s psychology and social intervention program and the study’s lead author.

Behavior issues in early elementary school have long-term implications, so early intervention is needed to support children at risk for academic problems,” said Sandee McClowry, the study’s senior author and a professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt.In the current study, the researchers evaluated whether INSIGHTS supports the behavior and academic skills of children in urban, low-income schools, and whether the relationship between teachers and their students made an impact. Prior research demonstrates that, regardless of a child’s temperament, a warm and supportive teacher-child relationship in early elementary school is associated with fewer problem behaviors and greater classroom engagement.

Participants included 435 kindergartners and first graders and their parents across 22 elementary schools. Half of the schools were randomized to use INSIGHTS, while the other half, which served as the control group, participated in a supplemental after-school reading program.

Over 10 weeks, teachers and parents in the INSIGHTS program learned how to recognize differences in children and support them in ways that are specific to their individual temperaments. During the same time period, children participated in INSIGHTS classroom activities, using puppets, flashcards, workbooks, and videotapes to help them solve daily dilemmas and understand how individuals differ in their reactions to life events.

The researchers observed moderate improvements among children with high maintenance temperaments who participated in INSIGHTS, including reductions in disruptive behaviors and off-task behaviors, as well as increases in behavioral engagement.

“Given the links between behavioral engagement in early schooling and positive academic development, our findings are promising for helping children with high maintenance temperaments succeed academically,” said McClowry.

Interestingly, the quality of the relationship between a teacher and child played a critical role in the children’s behaviors. An analysis suggests that the effects of INSIGHTS in reducing disruptive behaviors and off-task behaviors for children with high-maintenance temperaments were partially mediated through improvements in the quality of teacher-child relationships. The researchers did not observe the same effect of the teacher-child relationship on behavioral engagement.

In addition to McCormick and McClowry, study authors include Elise Cappella and Erin O’Connor. The research was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (R305B080019 and R305A080512).

(Photo (c) iStock)

The Most Influential Policy Academics Are at NYU Steinhardt According to 2015 Edu-Scholar Ranking

Steinhardt faculty members top the list as the most influential education policy academics in the country according to the 2015 Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, published by Rick Hess, Education Week blogger.

The Education Week rankings list 200 scholars whose ideas move from academic journals into the public discourse.  Faculty are evaluated according to the number of books published and Amazon ranking; number of mentions in the press, blogs and the Congressional Record; Twitter Klout score; and Google Scholar score, which calculates citations of the scholar’s work.

Steinhardt faculty members on the Edu-Scholar Public Influence list are

Diane Ravitch (#1)
Pedro Noguera (#11)
Jonathan Zimmerman (#26)
Richard Arum (#47)
Hirokazu Yoshikawa (#60)
Okhee Lee (#111)
Dominic Brewer (#120)
Joshua Aronson (#132)
Jennifer Jennings (#199)

“Simply being included among the 200 ranked scholars is an honor, given the tens of thousands who might be included,” Hess said.




Epic Tales of Heroes, Kings, and Goddesses Coming to Provincetown Playhouse

Anita Ratnam

According to writer Phillip Pullman, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”

The rich trove of stories spun all over the world since the dawn of time bears testimony to our need for narrative, and this spring, some of the most enduring, enticing and exotic tales will be performed as part of the long-running, professional Storytelling Series, sponsored by the Educational Theater Program at the NYU Steinhardt School.

Directed by internationally-acclaimed storyteller Regina Ress, the spring series kicks off with the annual Valentine’s concert, this year with a tale of the search for love excavated from the oral tradition of Borneo, and told by Ress herself. Aprils show brings the famous, 2,500-year-old tale of Gilgamesh, the ancient Mesopotamian king, as told by David Novak. Capping off the program is a rare US performance by India’s preeminent dancer/storyteller Anita Ratnam, who illustrates the many facets of womanhood from the Hindu epic The Ramayana.

“Stories are all around us, all the time, but we need the old stories,” says Ress, who serves as adjunct professor at Steinhardt’s Educational Theater program. “They speak to universal and eternal themes. They help to root us in our common humanity, which underpins cultural trappings and particulars. At this time of such polarization, such demonization of the “Other,” it is not just important, it is also healing and refreshing to our spirits to remember our connections to others in time and space.”

Regina Ress

Dates and descriptions are as follows:

Friday, February 13, 8 p.m.
Regina Ress tells Adi, Song of Agan

“Who is that person coming down the river? He is all one can desire! How white and shiny and big are the tiger teeth he wears in his ears!” For an unusual Valentine’s treat, Regina Ress tells the adventures of Agan Tadun Ngagtang Balang, epic hero from the Kelabit people of Borneo, as he ventures forth to seek a wife. We meet two pairs of lovers and a scheming comic witch who wants our hero. She doesn’t get him!

David Novak

Sunday, April 19, 3 p.m.
David Novak tells Gilgamesh

For 2,500 years it was the greatest story ever told. For another 2,500 years it was completely forgotten. The epic of Gilgamesh, from ancient Mesopotamia, returns to its roots as a spoken-word performance in an extraordinary rendering by renowned storyteller David Novak. “This story has something for everyone,” Novak says, “steamy seduction, monster-slaying, heavenly battles, and a grief-stricken hero’s quest. Although it is our oldest written epic, for thousands of years Gilgamesh was a great telling experience.”

Sunday, May 3, 2015 3:00 PMAnita Ratnam tells A Million Sitas

Through the lens of Sita, timeless icon of womanhood, Anita Ratnam, refracts and re-weaves the many strands of the majestic and sweeping Hindu epic The Ramayana. Five women are sketched…Manthara, Surpanakha,Mandodari, Ahalya and the eternal Sita, who holds them all together. One of India’ most celebrated dance-actors, Ratnam brings storytelling, theatre and dance to her rendering of Sita, who stands at the epicenter of this story of love, honour, courage, treachery and sacrifice.

All shows are free and open to the public, and take place at the historic Provincetown Playhouse at 133 MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village, one block south of Washington Square Park. Shows are appropriate for adults and children 12 years and older. Box office opens 1 hour before the show. Visit here for more information or call 212-998-5867.


In the Public Schools: Educating Caribbean Creole English Speakers

Shondel Nero, associate professor of teaching and learning, studies second language and second dialect speakers. Her research examines the politics, challenges, and strategies of educating students who speak and write in nonstandard varieties of English, including Caribbean Creole English.

“As we move further into the twenty-first century, English is likely to become more diverse,” Nero said.

Nero’s research, published in Englishes in Multilingual Contexts (Springer, 2014), examines the language, identities, attitudes, and pedagogical implications that arise from rapidly increasing number of Caribbean Creole English speakers in American schools.

Caribbean Creole English speakers typically identify as native speakers of English. Yet, many teachers who work with these students in the classroom question their “nativeness” as speakers of English, and the very notion of what counts as English.

Using data from Caribbean Creole English speakers in one New York City public school as a case study, Nero explored teachers’ and students’ varied linguistic responses to Caribbean Creole English speakers. Nero argues that the contact between Caribbean Creole English and other varieties of English is already changing classroom English and calls for utilizing Caribbean Creole English as a point of departure for pedagogy, literacy development, and raising language diversity awareness.

Nero’s recommendations for educating students who speak and write in nonstandard varieties of English include confronting language attitudes, prioritizing teacher training and ongoing professional development, using activities that allow for creative uses of language, and respecting students’ language.

“If we want to prepare our students to be linguistically and communicatively competent citizens of the twenty-first century, then we must expose them to sociolinguistic variation, to the dynamic, variable nature of language, particularly to the Englishes they will hear, see, and write as they interact with users of the language from around the world,” Nero said.

-Rachel Harrison

Photo credit: Hongqi Zhang/iStock


Steinhardt Nutrition Study Finds Low-Alcohol/Vegetarian Diet Can Reduce Risk of Obesity-Related Cancers

Low alcohol consumption and a plant-based diet, both healthy habits aligning with current cancer prevention guidelines, are associated with reducing the risk of obesity-related cancers, a New York University study shows. The findings appear in the journal Cancer Causes & Control.

“Our research aims to clarify associations between diet and physical activity in relation to cancer to encourage at-risk individuals to make lifestyle modifications that may reduce their risk of certain cancers,” said Nour Makarem, a nutrition doctoral student at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s lead author.

A third of cancers are estimated to be related to excess body fat, and are therefore considered preventable through lifestyle changes. Obesity-related cancers include cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organs, urinary tract, blood, bone, spleen, and thyroid.

In 1997, the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research released cancer prevention guidelines advising on weight management, diet, and physical activity. These guidelines, updated in 2007, provide an integrated approach for establishing healthy habits that reduce cancer incidence.

In their study, Makarem and her colleagues sought to evaluate whether healthy behaviors aligning with the diet and physical activity cancer prevention guidelines are in fact associated with reduced risk for obesity-related cancers and the most common site-specific cancers (breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers).

The researchers analyzed medical and dietary data for 2,983 men and women who were part of the Framingham Heart Study, a 60-year population study tracking factors related to cardiovascular disease as well as cancer. Focusing on data from 1991 through 2008, they identified 480 obesity-related cancers among the participants.

In order to calculate the relationship between the cancer prevention recommendations and cancer incidence, the researchers created a seven-point score based on the recommendations for body fat, physical activity, foods that promote weight gain, plant foods, animal foods, alcohol consumption, and food preparation and processing.

After adjusting for other factors that could contribute to cancer risk, including age, smoking, and pre-existing conditions, the researchers found that the overall score, as a proxy for overall concordance to the guidelines, was not associated with obesity-related cancer risk. However, when score components were evaluated separately, two different measures emerged as strong predictors of cancer risk.

In the current study, adherence to alcohol recommendations – limiting alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day – was protective against obesity-related cancers combined and against breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers. In addition, among participants who consume starchy vegetables, eating sufficient non-starchy plant foods (fruits, vegetables, and legumes) was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer.

“Based on the study’s results, dietary advice on preventing cancer should emphasize the importance of eating a plant-based diet and restricting alcohol consumption,” said Niyati Parekh, associate professor of nutrition and public health at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s senior author.

In addition to Makarem and Parekh, study authors include Yong Lin and Elisa V. Bandera of Rutgers School of Public Health and Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and Paul F. Jacques of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University. The research was supported by the American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant (RSG-12-005-01-CNE).

(Photo caption:  In the current study, adherence to alcohol recommendations – limiting alcoholic drinks to two for men and one for women a day – was protective against obesity-related cancers and site-specific cancers. © iStock)


New Report Explores the Use of Digital Games in the Classroom During the Learning Process

A new report from the A-GAMES PROJECT, a collaboration between New York University and the University of Michigan, examines how teachers are using digital games in their classrooms to monitor student learning and provide ongoing feedback.

The overall study is designed to help game designers as they develop educational games, researchers as they frame future studies of games and learning, and educators as they think about the role of games in everyday classroom practice.

“At a time when the interest in the use of games for learning purposes is increasing, and when school districts are adopting games for use in the classroom, we need more insights into how teachers use digital games in the classroom, and how they use them to assess student learning, so we can provide designers with essential input to build the next generation of learning games,” said Jan Plass, co-director of the Games for Learning Institute and the Paulette Goddard Professor of Digital Media and Learning Sciences at NYU Steinhardt.

The study was conducted in two parts, the first of which was a nationwide survey of 488 K-12 teachers. The survey offers a “mile high” picture of what teachers are doing with digital games related to formative assessment, a set of practices to gauge student progress toward learning goals, and to adjust instruction to meet students where they are. Formative assessment, which occurs during the learning process, differs from summative assessment, used to measure student learning at the end of a unit or term.

In the web-based survey, teachers were asked about their digital game use, formative assessment practices, and the intersection of the two. Key findings from the survey include:

  • More than half of teachers (57 percent) use digital games weekly or more often in teaching, with 18 percent using games for teaching on a daily basis. A teacher’s comfort level with using games for teaching is strongly related to how often they use digital games in the classroom, i.e., the more comfortable teachers are, the more likely they are to use games frequently.
  • A higher percentage of elementary school teachers (66 percent for grade K-2 teachers and 79 percent for grade 3-5 teachers) use games weekly or more often for teaching, compared with middle school (47 percent) and high school (40 percent) teachers. This is consistent with the larger market presence of games for younger learners.
  • More than a third of teachers (34 percent) use games at least weekly to conduct formative assessment. The way teachers who responded to the survey use digital games for formative assessment is related to their overall formative assessment practices, suggesting that using digital games may enable teachers to conduct formative assessment more frequently and effectively.
  • The most common barriers to using digital games – reported by more than half of the teachers – are the cost of games, limited time in the curriculum, and lack of technology resources, such as computers or the Internet.

“The most exciting finding in this study is the relationship between game use and formative assessment practices,” said Barry Fishman, professor of learning technologies at the University of Michigan School of Information and School of Education. “Formative assessment is thought of as one of the most important classroom practices to support student learning, and our study indicates that teachers who use games for formative assessment conduct assessment more frequently and report fewer barriers.”

To view the full report, visit THE A-GAMES PROJECT.  A second report from the study, to be released in early 2015, includes observations and interviews with 30 middle school teachers in the New York City area and focuses on the specific types of game features teachers use to monitor student progress.

A-GAMES, which stands for Analyzing Games for Assessment in Math, ELA/Social Studies, and Science, is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


Focusing on Executive Functions in Kindergarten Leads to Lasting Academic Improvements, Finds Research by Clancy Blair and C. Cybele Raver

An educational approach focused on the development of children’s executive functions – the ability to avoid distractions, focus attention, hold relevant information in working memory, and regulate impulsive behavior – improved academic learning in and beyond kindergarten, according to a new study by researchers at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

Because some effects were especially pronounced in high-poverty schools, the findings hold promise for closing the poverty-related achievement gap and suggest that an emphasis on executive functions in kindergarten may reduce poverty-linked deficits in school readiness. The findings are published online in the journal PLOS ONE.

“Working memory and the ability to control attention, both important components of executive functions, enable children to focus and process information more efficiently. Our results suggest that a combined focus on executive functions and early academic learning provides the strongest foundation for early success in school,” says Clancy Blair, professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s principal investigator.

Effective early education is critical for academic achievement, especially for children in poverty, whose socioeconomic status leaves them vulnerable to gaps in achievement. Recent advances in neuroscience suggest that focusing on self-regulation – which includes executive functions and regulating one’s emotions – can enhance children’s engagement in learning and put them on an upward academic trajectory.

Tools of the Mind is a research-based educational program that blends a curriculum of literacy, math, and science with child-directed activities and structured make-believe play. Using Tools of the Mind, teachers organize and manage instruction so that children build self-regulation skills through interactions with classmates, supporting the development of executive functions.

While Tools of the Mind was previously tested in preschools, with mixed results reported, this study is the first to evaluate the program’s use in kindergarten. In a two-year randomized controlled trial, the researchers studied 759 children in 29 Massachusetts schools, comparing the Tools of the Mind program with typical kindergarten curricula. In addition to measuring academic achievement and changes in executive functions, the researchers also took saliva samples to measure cortisol and alpha amylase, two indicators of stress response.

When compared with their peers in control classrooms, the researchers found that Tools of the Mind improved participants’ academic achievement, including math, reading, and vocabulary. Remarkably, the gains seen in kindergarten were sustained and increased into the first grade in reading and vocabulary, suggesting that programs that improve self-regulation in children can have long-term benefits.

Kindergartners in the Tools of the Minds classrooms were also better at paying attention in the face of distractions, had better working memory and executive functions, and processed information more efficiently. In saliva samples, the researchers found evidence of increases in stress response physiology, indicating that children in the Tools of the Mind classrooms were more engaged physiologically as well as cognitively.

“To date, decisions about the most effective ways to foster learning in early childhood have not fully capitalized on advances in the neuroscience of executive functions, particularly for children in poverty,” says C. Cybele Raver, professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s co-principal investigator.

“The ability to control impulses and regulate behaviors and emotions is a critical function to build into early childhood education, ensuring children’s success in both gaining knowledge and learning life skills.”

The researchers noted that Tools of the Mind can be implemented using typical professional development activities, and without a high level of additional resources and support, an important consideration for high-poverty schools.

The Institute for Education Sciences funded this research (R305A100058).

(Photo:  An educational approach focused on the development of children’s executive functions – the ability to avoid distractions, focus attention, hold relevant information in working memory, and regulate impulsive behavior – improved academic learning in and beyond kindergarten, according to a new NYU Steinhardt study. © iStock/petrograd99)