An Overview of Our Efforts to Have GradeScout Unblocked in Edison

Edison users will be familiar with this story. On the morning of January 30th, 2023, after experiencing consistent record highs of user counts on a daily basis for weeks on end, GradeScout was unfortunately blocked on all Edison district devices and networks.

There was an immediate reaction across Edison's four middle schools and two high schools. For many, GradeScout had become such a normal part of daily school life that it became difficult to readjust to using the standard Genesis interface again.

"Students had gotten accustomed to using its unique features," says Aprant Sahoo, a rising sophomore at Edison High School. Aprant says his peers were "left confused and frustrated" upon discovering GradeScout was suddenly made inaccessible at school.

At John Adams Middle School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School, hundreds of students — without GradeScout's involvement or endorsement —  signed multiple petitions requesting that the district unblock the site. It was clear that GradeScout had become ingrained in Edison's student culture. The Hawkeye newsletter of J.P. Stevens High School even joked that GradeScout was the typical JP student's favorite website months after the block.

Naturally, GradeScout's cofounders decided that the best course of action was to reach out to school and district officials for more information about the block. This led them to Mr. Vishal Patel, a representative on the Edison Board of Education. He encouraged GradeScout's cofounders to attend the next BOE meeting so that they could network with other board members and discuss the problem during the intermission before the public segment of the meeting.

It was decided that cofounder Troy Gunawardene would attend and give a speech during the public comments. On February 28th, in his speech at the meeting, Troy presented a description of GradeScout to the board and requested further discussion regarding the block. This speech was livestreamed on the Edison BOE YouTube channel (and GradeScout was mentioned in Hawkeye again).

"I really doubt that would pose a security issue to our system," said Ms. Shannon Peng, board president, noting that GradeScout had been created by Edison students. "I'm a computer science major, and I'm really proud of you guys."

"It's just amazing work that you've done," stated Dr. Edward Aldarelli, district superintendent, following Troy's speech. Pointing out that "disruption is the mother of innovation," Dr. Aldarelli remarked, "we're looking forward to the conversation to see how we can work with you."

Cofounders Naishadh Patel, Troy Gunawardene, & Sai Voruganti pose with superintendent Dr. Edward Aldarelli & Edison BOE member Mr. Jerry Shi (photo by BOE president Ms. Shannon Peng)

An ensuing chain of emails resulted in GradeScout's cofounders meeting with Dr. Aldarelli, Ms. Peng, and board member Mr. Jerry Shi at the Edison Board of Education office on March 2nd. The meeting was productive, but further discussion was needed.

Unfortunately, although we have remained in constant communication with the district in the months since, we have thus far been unable to confirm a date for any additional meetings regarding GradeScout (although we have met with individual BOE representatives on the topic as well as other district officials regarding unrelated matters). It remains to be seen whether a meeting will be held during the summer.

"It's disappointing to me and many of my friends that there haven't been any updates," complains Aditya Saini, a rising junior at J.P. Stevens High School. "I know the team has been working really hard to get another meeting."

In the meantime, GradeScout's developers have been working hard to plan out future versions of GradeScout that might be better-received by the district, including a version that is packaged as a browser extension as opposed to an online webapp. Unlike with the web version, no external proxy server would be necessary for the browser extension to function, making it more preferable for school devices. A prototype has already been made and tested, and the team is seeking to demonstrate it to the Edison administration.

While users in Edison have been continuing to log into GradeScout from home, the site has been experiencing significant growth in other school districts, such as West Windsor-Plainsboro and East Brunswick. The team hopes that an agreement may be reached before the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year following continued progress on GradeScout 2.0.