Who cares about grades? They cannot capture all the nuances of each student’s performance and are inevitably somewhat subjective. But they are valuable as an approximate measure, a way to keep track of how well students are doing relative to their peers over time. Most students and faculty pay attention to grades, and so do most parents. Can a grading system also motivate them to track and pay attention to political issues? Can it help elected officials fine-tune their response?
That’s the hypothesis behind an experiment called the California Report Card, developed by a team of faculty and students from the the Center for the Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society, or CITRIS, Data and Democracy Initiative in partnership with the Office of Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. We developed a mobile interface that makes it very easy to assign grades (A+, A, A-, B+, etc) to the state of California on timely issues and to suggest issues that should be included in the next report card. It only takes a few minutes to participate. We’re hoping to get perspectives from all parts of the state, so let your friends and parents know they now have the opportunity to assign grades to the state of California by visiting californiareportcard.org.
The California Report Card combines elements of two earlier projects: the Citizen Report Card developed in India by the World Bank and the Opinion Space platform developed by students and faculty at UC Berkeley. It differs from traditional polls and surveys in two important ways. First, it provides feedback by revealing the median grade after each grade is entered, allowing participants to instantly learn how their views compare to those of others. This can introduce bias, and we are studying this effect using data on how grades change after the median is displayed. Second, the platform supports peer-to-peer interaction by allowing visitors to rate the ideas of others and have their own ideas rated. Maps and graphs are updated daily to show results by issue and county.
The California Report Card serves as a platform by which elected leaders and the public can become more informed and engaged in collective decision-making. The platform offers participants an opportunity to express their opinions and elected officials a means to hear the most salient and creative ideas. Like attending town hall meetings, joining discussion groups and voting, participating in the California Report Card is self-selective, so it can’t guarantee a representative sample of the population (we will compare participation per capita across counties to study this). To collect opinions from a diverse group of Californians in the next few weeks, we need your help spreading the word to residents outside the Bay Area. Please email, tweet and message your friends (and parents) back home to let them know we’re paying attention to their grades too!
For more information, join us March 20 from 3 to 5 p.m. for a public forum, where Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and UC Berkeley professor Ken Goldberg will review the data and lessons learned from the first California Report Card. Visit http://bit.ly/1ii67bm for details and registration.
Brandie Nonnecke, Camille Crittenden and Ken Goldberg are the research and development manager, CITRIS director and faculty director, respectively, of the Data and Democracy Initiative.