The story behind the Daedalus system

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AS TOWNSEND Harris students, we take for granted the simple privilege of being able to view our grades online. Daedalus, the program that allows us to do this, is readily at our fingertips. However, it wasn’t always this easy.

Assistant Principal of Math, Science, and Technology Susan Brustein, who is credited with bringing Daedalus to Townsend, recalls that when she first came here and wanted to know how her students were doing, she “was given a stack of 1,000 report cards,” which she promptly tossed away.

Before coming to THHS, Ms. Brustein worked at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan with Steve Kramer (then her colleague, mentor teacher, and later her boss), who is the CEO of Daedalus. Together, they took on the role of Program Chair at Stuyvesant during their careers there, and used a HyperCard database to store students’ information.

“I was used to having data,” said Ms. Brustein of her experience at Stuyvesant.

When she came to THHS, she was confronted with the overwhelming task of working without this type of informational database. She reached out to Mr. Kramer, then newly retired, who was creating the Daedalus program. The two worked together to create a customized program to fit the needs of THHS.

Ms. Brustein is pleased with the result. “Daedalus is valuable to us because [Mr. Kramer] makes services that meet our needs,” she said.

But what exactly are these needs? Besides enabling students with access to the full breakdown of their grades, Daedalus lets teachers track their students’ progress and their overall performance as reflected in their grades, attendance, and demerit records. It lets faculty send important emails to members of the THHS community and allows students to easily enter their community service hours.

This is only the tip of the iceberg. Mr. Kramer himself says that Daedalus “started with 6 very simple different features,” and “grew because people in schools wanted certain kinds of functionality.”

Many students have only good things to say about the program. Junior Sarah DeFilippo remarks that Daedalus is “very useful because grades get posted sometimes days before the assignment is given back. It helps students keep close track of their averages and know where they can pick up their missing points.”

She also commented on the program’s attendance-tracking feature, saying, “I’ve been marked as cutting class several times and would never have found out if not for Daedalus.”

Senior Karen Su is equally thankful for the software’s ability to provide her with “previous college admissions statistics…As a senior, this type of data is really important and useful during college applications season.”

Despite rave reviews of the program’s capabilities, some teachers don’t like its aesthetics and the complexity of its navigation. “I think Daedalus is too boring. It has some unnecessary features that throw me off at times, and it can be difficult to navigate,” says Biology teacher Sarah Oberlander. “Daedalus needs to be more colorful and simple as it can be difficult to enter service hours and such.”

Daedalus has made a huge difference in the way our school is run. Ms. Brustein says this tool, as shown by its success at THHS, “is very powerful” as it lets students and teachers better their academic awareness. Now used in 40 NYC DOE schools, Daedalus has fostered an unprecedented level of communication between members of the school community.