Who we are and what we do

 

The Name


The name Discovery has long been used to name ships of exploration. The ship used in the 1607 founding of Jamestown (first permanent English settlement in what would become the United States) was the Discovery.  That same ship was used by Henry Hudson (as in: Hudson River, Hudson’s Bay) during his ill-fated search for the Northwest Passage in 1610-1611.

James Cook explored the South Pacific (Hawaii, Australia…) in the late 1770’s in the HMS Discovery and one of his mid-shipmen, George Vancouver, explored the Pacific Coast in a different HMS Discovery from 1791-1795. Vancouver Island and the cities of Vancouver (in Washington State and the Province of British Columbia) are named after him.

Captain George Nares’ British Arctic Expedition of 1875 was also with an HMS Discovery.  Twenty-six years later, Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton took their RRS Discovery to Antarctica in 1901-1904.

Discovery Software Ltd. was formed near Vancouver, British Columbia in 1984, the same year as the maiden voyage of the space shuttle… Discovery.

It seemed like an appropriate name given the time and location of the company’s founding.

 

Early Years


Discovery Software was formed by a teacher, one of his friends, and some students in November 1984. Their first two products were an attendance system for local elementary schools and a gradebook (the teacher needed some way to keep track of his students’ grades). The gradebook was named CSL Marks and was sold through Chancery Software, the makers of MacSchool and WinSchool.  At the end of this relationship, it was renamed reMark! and subsequently evolved into the enormously successful InteGrade Pro.

Through a long series of acquisitions, InteGrade Pro developed a customer base of approximately 15,000 schools and ended up being owned by Pearson Education.  Under contract to the various owners, Discovery Software continued to do all of the InteGrade Pro development for its entire 20+ year lifespan.

 

Contracting


Due to the InteGrade Pro contract work, Discovery Software grew into a software contracting firm; mostly for Student Information System (SIS) vendors. Our staff have a deep understanding of software used in school administration, and we are best known for our work on gradebook software and SIS state reporting. However, since our founding in 1984, we’ve done work on products, reporting and integration for a diverse range of other businesses as well.

 

SIS Liberty, Principalm and Teacherpalm


Discovery’s familiarity with SIS products made us realize that school administrators had some very important needs not served by their SIS.  Specifically: emergency preparedness, mobile access to data and student connectedness.  So, we created SIS Liberty, Principalm, and Teacherpalm.

SIS Liberty copies a school or district’s vital SIS information onto smartphones and tablets. Principalm and Teacherpalm then gives school administrators easy access to their student and staff information during emergencies or away from their desk.  The information is available even when the network is down or otherwise not available.

SIS information is sensitive.  So, we’ve made sure that it is encrypted and remains under the control and in the possession of the school and its employees.  SIS Liberty runs on school/district servers and transfers the data directly to the smartphones and tablets; it doesn’t go out on the internet unless the school district needs to do so.

Emergency preparedness is important, but what really excites us are the newer features being added to promote student connectedness through better communication.  Studies have shown that when school staff has strong, respectful connections with students, all kinds of good things happen: attendance goes up (great for funding!), graduation rates rise, gang membership is reduced, there are fewer discipline problems, test scores go up, tobacco/drug/alcohol use decreases, vandalism goes down… there’s even a reduction in teen pregnancy.

We’ve given school administrators better access to their SIS data. Our focus is now on adding modules to Principalm and Teacherpalm that turn that data into information that will increase communication and student connectedness.

Schools are supposed to improve lives, and we help them do just that.

 

Rubrix


Back in 1984, Discovery Software started as a gradebook company. Thirty years later, we’re more excited about evaluation than ever, thanks to our more recent work: Rubrix.

Rubrix can be used for student evaluation, staff evaluations, safety and security audits, compliance, choosing a new or used car… the possibilities are almost endless.  We’ve managed to produce a generalized evaluation platform, useful in many fields other than education.

But at its core, Rubrix is based on a simple belief that evaluation is about communication:

  • Evaluation is about an expert communicating their knowledge of what to look for with the person who is performing the evaluation.  If this is done well, the person doing the evaluation will produce consistent, reliable evaluations.
  • Evaluation isn’t about whether a student gets an A, B or C; letter grades alone provide very little information. When the subject being evaluated is a person, it’s important to communicate results in a way that clearly helps them understand what needs to be improved, and how.

So that’s it.  Named after ships of exploration, Discovery Software’s goal is to break new ground by developing software to improve communication between people, while at the same time doing our best to protect their personal privacy.  There’s no sense in writing software that doesn’t improve the world in some small way.