How to Bake a Pumpkin Pie: A Teachable Moment with Alumna Leanne Brown and NYU President John Sexton

YouTube Preview ImageJust in time for Thanksgiving, NYU food studies alumna Leanne Brown (MA ’14) returns to Steinhardt’s teaching kitchen to bake a classic pumpkin pie—with a little help from President John Sexton. For more on Brown, her cookbooks, and her campaign to make simple, delicious recipes accessible to all, visit And to recreate her dish for your holiday table, download the recipe here.

(From NYU Stories)

Study by Erin Godfrey Finds Open and Honest Classroom Discussion Can Foster Critical Consciousness

Critical consciousness – the ability to critically read social conditions, feel empowered to make change in one’s community, and actually participate in these change efforts – is an important part of youth’s civic development. It is also a source of strength for disadvantaged youth that contributes to their well-being.

Steinhardt’s Erin Godfrey, assistant professor of applied psychology, and doctoral student Justina Grayman conducted a study looking at whether the type of classroom discussions youth have in school matters for their critical consciousness. The researchers specifically looked at the extent to which an open climate for discussion – one in which controversial issues are openly discussed with respect for all opinions – related to youth’s critical consciousness.

Godfrey and Grayman studied a sample of more than 2,700 ninth grade students. They found that the type of discussions in their classrooms did matter. Students who reported that controversial issues were openly and respectfully discussed in their classroom felt more strongly that they could make changes in their schools and communities. They were also more likely to participate in voluntary activities to help their community. Minority youth benefited particularly from these kinds of classroom discussions.

“Our findings suggest that we should foster teachers’ abilities to discuss controversial issues in an open and respectful way,” says Godfrey. “These kinds of discussions not only build critical consciousness, but also support academic learning and other important skills laid out in the Common Core State Standards.”

The research was published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.

(Photo credit: Thinkstock/Monkey Business Images)




At Steinhardt Policy Breakfast, Panel Discusses Pre-K and Closing the Achievement Gap

The lasting benefit of early childhood education was the focus of the Steinhardt School’s first annual policy breakfast on November 21st.  The event brought together 200 members of the education community for a conversation on the role that early childhood education plays in improving student success and its ability to close the achievement gap.

Hirokazu Yoshikawa (left) and Steven Dow (center) listened to Ajay Chaudry (right) speak during a Q&A session at the November 21st policy breakfast on early childhood education

Hirokazu Yoshikawa, the Courtney Sale Ross University Professor of Globalization and Education at NYU Steinhardt, moderated the event. Yoshikawa, who led research efforts to measure the success of Boston’s pre-K efforts, was one of several NYU researchers to sign an open letter last week urging policymakers to support greater investments in high-quality early childhood education.

At the event, Yoshikawa shared examples of policy advances in support of universal pre-K – in New York, Boston, Seattle, and beyond – and stated that access to early childhood education is a “civil rights issue of our time.”

Ajay Chaudry, former Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Services Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offered a national perspective on the promise and challenges of universal pre-K. While research has shown that early childhood education has significant educational and societal benefits, Chaudry stressed the importance of both access to education and ensuring its quality.

Chaudry also shared statistics on achievement gaps between children across the socioeconomic spectrum, noting that a gap is not just seen between rich and poor children. In fact, he showed that a larger achievement gap exists between upper and middle class children than middle and lower class children.

Steven Dow, executive director of CAP Tulsa, an anti-poverty agency in Oklahoma, spoke about his state’s successes in early childhood education.  Oklahoma has long been known as a model for early childhood education, where 74 percent of 4-year-olds are enrolled in publicly funded pre-K.

Left to right: Patricia Cooper (Professor of Elementary and Early Childhood Education at Queens College, CUNY), Steven Dow, and Ajay Chaudry

Despite these achievements, Dow discussed the under-resourced and fragmented education system for children under five, compared with the more established K-12 and higher education systems. “If we want to change the outcome, we’ve got to change the system,” said Dow.

The NYU Steinhardt Education Policy Breakfast Series brings together policy leaders, legislators, business people, heads of corporations, foundations and advocacy organizations, university faculty, and school superintendents. The goal has been to illuminate contemporary educational issues and foster discussion among the many constituencies concerned with education at both the local and national levels. Now in its 16th year, this year’s series will focus on key issues in early childhood education: accessibility, quality, and affordability.

New Report from Research Alliance Explores NYC Students’ Pathways Into and Through College

A new report from the Research Alliance for New York City Schools gives a first look at patterns of college enrollment, persistence, and completion for New York City high school students.

“It is rare to be able to track students’ trajectories through high school and post-secondary education,” said James J. Kemple, executive director of the Research Alliance. “This is the first such study focused on New York City, and it has revealed some encouraging signs, as well as areas in need of greater attention. The findings provide a strong foundation for learning more about the barriers that limit some students’ college access and success.”

New York City’s progress in reducing high school dropout rates and boosting graduation rates is well documented. But with a high school diploma no longer guaranteeing job opportunities, policymakers, educators, and families are increasingly focused on helping students reach and succeed in college. The new report from the Research Alliance examines pathways into and through college and explores factors that may shape students’ post-secondary outcomes.

Key findings of the study include:

  • New York City’s high school graduation rates have improved substantially, with 70 percent of students who entered high school in 2008 graduating within four years, up from 58 percent for those starting high school in 2002. Concurrently, rates of immediate college enrollment have also gone up: 45 percent of students who entered high school in 2008 enrolled in a two- or four-year college right after graduation, up from 35 percent among those starting high school in 2002.
  • Students attending two-year colleges, particularly CUNY community colleges, have driven the growth in college enrollment. This finding is consistent with national trends showing increasing proportions of high school graduates attending community colleges.
  • While academically prepared students (those who earned the more rigorous Advanced Regents diploma) were significantly more likely to enroll in college, one in five still didn’t pursue post-secondary education right after graduation. This suggests that barriers other than academics, such as cost and trouble navigating the system, may interfere with college enrollment, even for the strongest students.
  • Few college-going students – just 36 percent of those who started college in 2006 – earned a two- or four-year degree within four years. The researchers observed slow and steady attrition from college across eight semesters, suggesting that students need support throughout college, not just early on. Students with stronger high school credentials and those at four-year colleges (particularly selective colleges) were more likely to stay enrolled and complete college on time.

“The findings suggest that both high school preparation and supports offered in college make a difference in college outcomes,” said Vanessa Coca, a research fellow at the Research Alliance and the report’s author. “We’re eager to learn more about the conditions and experiences that shape students’ access to and success in college.”

The researchers stress that the report is an initial look at college enrollment and completion among New York City high school students. The findings raise many important questions, which the Research Alliance plans to address in future studies.

About the Research Alliance for New York City Schools

The Research Alliance for New York City Schools – founded in 2008 at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development  – conducts studies on topics that matter to the city’s public schools. It strives to advance equity and excellence in education by providing nonpartisan evidence about policies and practices that promote students’ development and academic success. For more information, please visit

(Photo credit:  iStock)


A Top Ten Hit: The Hollywood Reporter Ranks NYU Steinhardt’s Music Program

The Hollywood Reporter has ranked Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions among the top 25 music programs in the country.

NYU Steinhardt ranks #9 for a music program that “emphasizes collaborative competition,” has launched the career of Nic Rouleau, who stars in The Book of Mormon, and graduates notable alumni including Elmer Bernstein and Alan Menkin.

Steinhardt’s Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions offers programs in music technology, music business, music composition, film scoring, songwriting, music performance practices, performing arts therapies, and the performing arts-in-education (music, dance, and drama).  The department offers a conservatory-level training for undergraduate and graduate students in the heart of New York City.

(Photo:  A season of performances of NYU Steinhardt –  (clockwise from top) NYU Concert Band, Little Shop of Horrors, Man of La Mancha, and Don’t Die, a performance choreographed by dance education faculty member Martie Barylick.  Credit:  Chianan Yen.)




Open Letter from Steinhardt Professors and Peers Encourages Investing in Early Childhood Education

On November 12, more than 500 researchers and academics from across the country, along with the National Institute for Early Education Research and the First Five Years Fund, released an open letter urging policymakers to support greater investments in high-quality early childhood education.

The letter cites evidence in human development, psychology, education, and economics – including a research brief summarizing the evidence base on early childhood education led by Steinhardt’s Hirokazu Yoshikawa – that high-quality early childhood education is one of the best economic investments our country can make.  In fact, quality early childhood education programs produce better education, health, economic, and social outcomes for children, families, and the nation.

Before amassing upwards of 500 signatures, the letter began with nearly 60 founding signatories, including James Heckman, Nobel laureate in economics, and representing leading academics in education and early childhood development. The largest group of founding signatories came from NYU, and includes J. Lawrence Aber, Clancy Blair, Laurie Miller Brotman, Pamela Morris, Susan B. Neuman, C. Cybele Raver, and Yoshikawa.



When Patient and Therapist Play Themselves: Robert Landy, Playwright and Drama Therapist, Talks about ‘Borderline’

At NYU Steinhart, the conversation starter of the season is the musical, Borderline, which runs four nights at the Provincetown Playhouse.  The play, starring Jill Powell (as patient) and Cecilia Dintino, Ph.D. (as therapist), is the story of Powell’s ten-year treatment with Dintino for borderline personality disorder.  The play is like any 50-minute session – complicated – and has all the elements of great drama – love, mystery, murder, and redemption.

Robert Landy, founder of Steinhardt’s Drama Therapy Program, wrote the musical after being approached by Dintino, a clinical psychologist and drama therapist, about her patient, Powell —  a Broadway musical theater performer and TV actress, who had become resistant to conventional psychotherapy.

An Interview with Drama Therapist, Robert Landy

Borderline feels part theatre, part therapy session, can you talk about this “cutting-edge” genre — is this drama therapy as you practice it?

This is therapeutic theatre. a form we’ve been innovating at NYU for some years now. Most of drama therapy practice is not about performance, but working with groups through a process of play and improvisational role-playing. Therapeutic theatre is getting back to the art form of performance in front of an audience, and working through a therapeutic process with the actors in rehearsal. Our belief is that through this form of therapeutic theatre, changes can occur both to the performers and to the audience members. We are currently working on strategies to research this premise.

Is it common or unusual for an audience to be “invited in” to a session or  performance in drama therapy?

This is common. In drama therapy, groups are well defined within various institutional or private practice settings. In therapeutic theatre, we also invite a receptive audience.  If the topic of the performance is, as in our play, borderline personality disorder, we invite a community of people — family members, friends, professionals, and academics — who are aware of the disorder or who want to know more about it.

How long did it take to write ‘Borderline’ and do you have plans to perform it again?

We worked on this piece over a period of about eight months, beginning with sessions that I held with both actors, Jill and Cecilia, who, in fact, shared their real-life stories with me.

From there, I wrote a play based upon their stories, then added music, composed brilliantly by Michael Starobin. Then we turned over the process to our extraordinary director, Dave Mowers, also a drama therapist, who took the actors through — not only an aesthetic experience — but a deeply therapeutic one.

As to the future, we need to evaluate the process and the product within the therapeutic theatre and drama therapy community. We are going to have a a discussion with the entire community next week and will be spending lots of time with the artists involved in the piece evaluating its effectiveness.  We’ll be making plans about the future of Borderline after the evaluation.

Can you speak to the complex issues surrounding confidentiality that you struggled with in writing this play?  How complicated is it to use actual material from treatment sessions and performers who are the actual people in that treatment dyad?

This is the largest question that touches on the ethical responsibility of anyone involved in therapeutic theatre. The two principle players in this process, the therapist and the client, whose stories are being told, approached me and said that their therapeutic process needed to take a new direction to move forward. They surmised that putting the story on stage was the boldest and potentially most transfromational way to go.

Opening night talkback with Director Dave Mowers, Jill Powell, and Cecilia Dintino.

We all agreed to take the risk of putting a private practice into a public forum, in the hope that the realities of mental illness would be embraced by an audience, and in turn, the therapist and client would be able to find a new way to move forward in the process of change that they so deeply desired.

We spent many hours of rehearsals as if they were therapy sessions — sometimes with two to three therapists in the room – discussing the minutia not only of our aesthetic choices, but our therapeutic choices, as well.

We took a risk by sharing a true story of one person’s struggle with mental illness and its effect upon her therapist.  We created distance by, in part, fictionalizing the characters and placing them within the fictional frame of musical theatre. Was the risk worth it? Will the client and the therapist ascend and soar? Stay tuned.

Borderline was produced by the NYU Drama Therapy Program at Steinhardt, supported by a grant from The Billy Rose Foundation.

(Story and photos by Debra Weinstein)



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)



Live Exhibition Celebrates Jack Smith, Father of Performance Art, at 80WSE Gallery, Nov. 12-14

RECYCLING ATLANTIS, a 3-day live exhibition by performance artists Uzi Parnes, Carmelita Tropicana, and Ela Troyano in celebration of the artist, philosopher, educator, and “father of performance art,” Jack Smith, will run at the 80WSE, November 12, 13 and 14 from 5 – 9 pm. The exhibition is free and open to the public.

Uzi Parnes, Carmelita Tropicana and Ela Troyano have been collaborating on film and performance since the early 1980’s when they first met legendary filmmaker Jack Smith. Twenty-five years after his death from AIDS in 1989, RECYCLING ATLANTIS celebrates Smith’s radical philosophies about the role of art in society through an interactive exhibition project, produced live in collaboration with 80WSE Director Jonathan Berger and NYU students and faculty over the course of three evenings.

Some time around 1978 Jack Smith penned a manifesto in which he outlined a utopian futuristic urban environment, centering around a series of proposed social programs and articulated in the form of an unrealized film, which employed numerous Hollywood movie stars in service roles for Smith’s new progressive world. The manifesto as a whole is emblematic of the entirety of Smith’s creative practice and philosophical approach, where the boundary between art and life was non-existent and the act of creation became the literal construction of a new reality.

Among the proposals in Smith’s manifesto were a “free paradise of abandoned objects in the center of the city near where the community movie sets would also be.”  These two projects highlight integral practices that remain a constant throughout Smith’s work: the fantastical transformation and repurposing of discarded materials and trash for both his home and film sets, often one and the same, and the discovery and employment of unknown and unwanted performers as “superstars” for his films, a concept that he pioneered ahead of his contemporary Andy Warhol.

RECYCLING ATLANTIS centers around Parnes, Tropicana, and Troyano’s revisiting of Smith’s manifesto and their subsequent interest in interpreting and realizing his proposed “free paradise of abandoned objects” and “community movie set” within the space and time of an exhibition.

In 80WSE’s front gallery space, visitors will be able to take or leave their own objects to recycle, growing and shrinking a large and varied mound of items in the center of the room, while an accompanying audio recording of Tropicana’s performance Cry a la Jack chronicles one of Smith’s legendary performances hinging on his powerful transformation of a common toilet plunger.

A second gallery presents four simultaneous slideshows of performance and portrait photographs created between 1981 and 1989 through an ongoing collaboration between Smith and Parnes, most notably a series of images shown publically in NYC for the first time documenting Smith’s play I Was A Male Yvonne DeCarlo for the Lucky Landlord Underground, with accompanying audio from the performance, shot over the course of three nights in 1982.

80WSE’s remaining three conjoined gallery spaces will serve as the site for a live film, existing in a permanent state of development, in which the boundaries between design, production, and presentation are dissolved, much as in Troyano’s first film Bubble People, which featured Jack Smith and was shot at Parnes’ loft performance space “Performances Staged” in 1982.

One production area will serve as the setting for an ongoing improvised film shoot, featuring Tropicana as “Yolanda La Pinguina,” (one of Smith’s recurring characters), using Smith’s philosophical texts as a script, NYU students and visitors as performers, and “abandoned objects” as props.

In a second area, Parnes and Troyano will establish a working editing studio where they will merge footage spanning three decades, making selections from their collaborations with Smith and Tropicana on film, video, photo, and theater works.

Through live mixing, layering, and altering these historical materials the artists will generate a new composite ongoing and ever-changing film. A third area will serve as a cinema continuously screening live feed footage from both Parnes and Troyano’s studio as well as the active “community movie set”.

The format of the exhibition seeks to reflect the critique of arts culture with which Smith was concerned for the entirety of his career, as well as the holistic approach to art making that he chose to pursue as a result of those concerns, one where he considered every part of the creative process, from thought to distribution, as an essential contributing artistic gesture towards achieving the total work.

Through their open collaborative re-invention of materials from the recent and distant past, in the space and time of the present, Parnes, Tropicana, and Troyano focus RECYCLING ATLANTIS on the continued and increasing relevance of the question which opens Smith’s 1978 manifesto: “Could art be useful?”

Uzi Parnes is a New York based filmmaker, photographer, curator, and actor. Presentations of his work have been shown internationally, most recently in a career survey at The Arsenal Institute for Film and Video Art (Berlin, 2012). His dissertation, Pop Performance: Four Seminal Influences, was published in 1988 and has become an influential reference for scholarship around Jack Smith’s work. Parnes was founder and co-director with Ela Troyano of legendary 1980′s performance club “Chandelier.”

Carmelita Tropicana is an Obie award winning performance artist and writer. Her work has been presented by INTAR Theatre (NYC), Performance Space 122 (NYC), Institute of Contemporary Art (London), Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo (Sevilla), El Museo del Barrio (NYC), and Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin). I, Carmelita Tropicana – Performing Between Cultures, a book surveying her work, was published in 2000.

Ela Troyano is an interdisciplinary filmmaker, born in Cuba and based in NYC. Most recently, Troyano and Carmelita Tropicana were commissioned by Performance Space 122 to create the performance Post Plastica, which was presented at El Museo del Barrio in 2012. In 2010 she and Uzi Parnes were invited by the Berlin Film Festival to present The Silence of Marcel Duchamp, a collaborative live cinema performance. Troyano’s work has been supported through numerous fellowships including Creative Capital, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, and Sundance Lab.

Concurrently with RECYCLING ATLANTIS, Uzi Parnes’s installation of photographs, BASRA ON FIRST AVENUE: Jack Smith’s Last Apartment, will be on view from October 29, 2014 – January 26, 2015 at 80WSE Gallery’s satellite space, a series of five street-level windows located at the corner of Broadway and East 10th Street. The installation is on view 24 hours a day.

RECYCLING ATLANTIS is made possible through the generous support of Materials for the Arts, with the support of the Gladstone Gallery and the Fales Library. For more information visit:


NYU Steinhardt to Support Pre-K for All

NYU Steinhart’s Institute of Human Development and Social Change (IHDSC) is partnering with the New York City Department of Education and the NYC Center for Economic Opportunity to provide educators with the tools they need to monitor and support the quality of universal pre-K programs.

In September, New York City launched an ambitious expansion of pre-K, with 51,500 children registered to attend full-day pre-K programs, more than double the 20,000 children who attended last year. This milestone was the first stage of a two-year effort to bring full-day pre-K to all eligible 4-year-olds.

Prior research in other cities has demonstrated the benefits of large-scale public pre-K programs for children, including gains in language, reading, and math. However, education leaders need the tools to support the effectiveness of their programs. Given the rapid expansion of pre-K in New York City, the data architecture – or means of gathering data, analyzing it, and linking it with existing information – for these programs is still being built.

“This project will help educators to ‘take the pulse’ of pre-K programs in an effort to evaluate the Pre-K for All rollout,” said C. Cybele Raver, professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt and the project’s principal investigator. “We represent a consortium of national leaders at NYU currently working to support early childhood education.”

“What the de Blasio administration and the team of dedicated staff at the Department of Education are doing is critically important – there is substantial evidence that center-based preschool experiences can benefit young children,” added Pamela Morris, director of IHDSC, professor of applied psychology at NYU Steinhardt, and the project’s co-principal investigator. “We are fortunate to be part of the vanguard of city leaders and policy professionals supporting learning in young children.”

To strengthen the data architecture, NYU will work with the city and its evaluation partners to collect assessments throughout the 2014-2015 school year on children’s school readiness (including early language, math, and self-regulation skills), and will work to link this information with the Department of Education’s existing student data systems. Raver, Morris, and their colleagues will analyze the data gathered to create a “dashboard” for city agencies that will be available in the spring of 2015.

NYU will also develop a series of small-scale experiments to answer high-priority questions about pre-K and respond to the city’s needs. NYU’s work will complement other ongoing research initiatives to evaluate Pre-K for All.

“The design and translation of social science knowledge and methods from research to practice is often too slow to fully benefit to educational leaders in large urban educational settings,” Raver said. “Our project aims to answer important questions of high policy relevance, but we want to do so in a way that meets standards of rigor, efficiency, low cost, and timeliness.”

In addition to Raver and Morris, James Kemple, executive director of the Research Alliance for New York City Schools and research professor at NYU Steinhardt, will lead the project as a co-investigator. Kemple will leverage the Research Alliance’s existing datasets and expertise in studying the city’s schools to build and grow the framework for measuring the success of Pre-K for All.

The project is funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences and the Spencer Foundation, as well as funds from NYU.

(Photo:  NYU has formed a partnership with New York City to provide educators with the tools they need to monitor and support the quality of Pre-K for All. © iStock.)