In this issue:
March 14, 2013

The Brookline High School 21st Century Fund is having an exciting year. We are underwriting six innovative, dynamic courses and programs - all due to the generous philanthropic support of the Brookline community. We have heard from many interested parents, alumni and community members that they would like more details about our programs and receive updates on our efforts, in order to feel more connected to what we do. As a result, we are launching this quarterly newsletter. Each quarter we will send you up to the minute information on three of our programs, along with other information about Fund activities. We know that our work would not be possible without your commitment to Brookline High. Thank you.

On February 28, the Fund was proud to sponsor its second annual "What's the Big Idea?" forum as part of its mission to foster innovation, creativity and exploration. With over 150 people in attendance, it was a full house. This year's topic was "rigor" - quite the buzz word in schools these days and certainly a topic of debate among educators, parents and students. Attendees of this year's Forum enjoyed a lively discussion among the panelists and took part in a spirited Q & A session. In case you missed it, watch the forum here generously provided by Brookline Access Television.


This fall, the 21st Century Fund launched a new course at BHS entitled Medical Interpretation and Translation. This innovative program trains students to become Spanish/English medical interpreters and is designed to be a direct career pathway for those with advanced language skills. This quarter, the intensity has risen in the course.  The students  have advanced from practicing "consecutive interpretation" to practicing "simultaneous interpretation."

With consecutive inetrpretation, the interpreter waits for the speaker to finish a sentence or idea before rendering the speaker's words into the target language.  Simultaneous interpretation is trickier: the interpreter renders the speaker's words into the target language as he or she is speaking. This requires both tremendous concentration and mental agility.

Simultaneous interpretation is especially useful in Emergency Room situations, where a delay could mean the difference between life and death.

In preparation for their spring-semester of shadowing medical interpreters at Boston's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, MIT students have been practicing simultaneous interpretation while also honing their consecutive interpretation skills. A recent role-play involved a medical team trying urgently to communicate with a patient to determine her level of consciousness and the severity of her injuries.  The scenario called on students' abilities to transition between the two modes of interpretation.  This is real-life, critical learning! 


Since it's first year (2010-2011), BHS Writes has aimed to put writing at the center of Brookline High's culture and identity. Part of that effort was the establishment of a student-staffed writing center which provides peer support for less confident student writers. Brookline High students benefit from frequent conversations with their teachers about writing; they meet with their teachers to plan, draft, and revise. However, meeting with a peer often allows a different conversation, perhaps a more honest conversation. A student may be more likely to share insecurities about writing with a peer than with the teacher who ultimately grades the paper. This program also encourages students to seek help for themselves, use the resources available to them, and direct their own learning. This is a skill they will need throughout high school and at the university level.
In its first year of operation, 196 students sought assistance at the student-staffed writing center. Last year, 400 students stopped by for writing help, and in this year's first semester alone, 300 students have visited, setting a course for 600 students to be served by the end of the year. Students come for help with analytical and research papers, lab reports and college essays. Business at the Writing Center, and writing at BHS, keeps getting better!
On January 30, the Writing Center's 29 student-coaches took part in a midyear in-school retreat organized by the center's faculty advisors, John Andrews (English) and Mike Normant (Social Studies).  Students shared reflections on their first semester work, engaged in role-play exercises to hone their coaching skills, and discussed goals for second semester.  Student-coaches' responses to the retreat prove that the Writing Center benefits not only its customers but also its coaching staff. One Student Writing Coach said:
"Being a coach has given me a lot more insight into what it's like to be a teacher, and this has, in turn, affected my views on being a student. I now have a deeper appreciation of how many different levels and strengths students have and how it is up to teachers to find ways to accommodate all of them."

The Content Reading Initiative (CRI) was launched this year as an exciting, three-way partnership between the 21st Century Fund, the Brookline Education Foundation, and the Public Schools of Brookline - all of which contributed significant funding in support of the program's goals.  The Content Reading Initiative engages teachers across disciplines in the difficult yet urgent work of helping students become stronger readers. The goal is for all students - both proficient readers and those who struggle - to have greater success in content courses, which require both generic and specialized literacy skills. When the program concludes in 2016, teachers in every department at Brookline High will infuse literacy instruction into their subject area curriculm.  Currently, 18 teachers in the English, Social Studies and World Language departments are leading this initiative, which will expand to include teachers in Math, Science and other displines in the coming years.

In this first year, CRI's influence is already spreading quickly and widely throughout BHS. Both students and faculty are benefitting. In the Social Studies Department, Stephanie Hunt and Caroline Cadel have created interactive reading guides to boost students' comprehension of the textbook. The reading guides use symbols to signify important historical concepts, turning points and key figures. Meanwhile, members of the English Department's CRI team are recording one-on-one student-teacher reading conferences to gain insight into how kids are thinking while they read. Eric Colburn documents this effort on his blog Literacy in Leafstrewn.  And in the World Language Department, Liz Gorman is having her students keep personal word journals: when they encounter an unfamiliar word, they write it down. Her goal is a word-curious classroom.

This range of engagement has led CRI leaders to apply for sponsorship as guest presenters at the annual conferences of the Massachusetts Reading Association (MRA) and the Literary Research Association, in Dallas, to talk about the BHS 21st Century Fund's school-wide approach to addressing literacy.
To learn more about this and other 21st century fund programs, visit our website or contact us at

The 21st Century Fund is active all year round and is always in need of volunteers. This spring, we will launch our first ever phonathon and need help making it a success. Do you have a few hours for one or two nights to spare in early May? Would you like to help us raise philanthropic support for the above programs? If so, please contact Jessica Conaway, Executive Director, at Thank you!
The BHS 21st Century Fund

The Fund was created in 1998 to incubate new programs that enhance the academic and future achievement of every BHS student.  It serves as venture capital for innovation in public education and invests in courses, programs, forums and research that help faculty and administrators continue to deliver excellence in an evolving world.  After a three year testing and evaluation period, succesful new courses are permanently funded by the Town of Brookline.