2014 was another successful year for us. Some of our major accomplishments for the year were:
20.3 million unique visitors (up from 16.6 million in 2013), 1,187 new schools using ProCon.org (5,758 total), 101 new books referencing ProCon.org (371 total), 471 media mentions (1,551 total), 9 new federal and state government agencies using ProCon.org (61 total), 22,046 new email subscribers (120,771 total), and substantial increases in our various social media followers. (see I. below).
Two new websites: We added two new issue websites (in alphabetical order): Local Elections and School Uniforms (III. below).
100% of surveyed teachers would recommend ProCon.org to other teachers and librarians: We received 1,141 responses to our teachers and librarian survey between May. 16, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014. 98.1% of teachers responding to our survey and who use ProCon.org (admittedly a self-selecting group) reported an improvement in their students critical thinking skills. 100% of surveyed teachers said they would recommend ProCon.org to other teachers and librarians (VI. below).
Staff, Volunteers, and Interns: Our organization began and ended 2014 with a staff of seven and a half full-time equivalent employees. We also had two volunteers and two interns (VIII. below).
Number of donors: We received charitable contributions from 238 donors in 2014 - an increase from our 176 donors in 2013 (IX. below).
Select additional highlights (see X. below for several more):
A. ProCon.org turned 10 years old.
B. Jay Rakow becomes new CEO of ProCon.org.
C. ProCon.org participated in a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 44th annual legislative conference.
D. ProCon.org launches a Local Elections website where we covered the Local Santa Monica, California elections (School Board, College Board and City Council).
In sum, in 2014 we surpassed 80 million unique visitors, 177.7 million pageviews, 3.6 billion hits, and we have launched 52 pro-con websites since we started in 2004.
Thank you for your continued interest in the information we supply, and thanks to our talented researchers, IT Director, President/Managing Editor, Board Members, interns, and volunteers.
Thanks as well to our expert sources, the media who referenced us, the tens of thousands of times teachers have used our content in the classroom, and to the millions of ProCon.org readers who helped our organization become so popular. And a big thanks to all our supporters for your helping us continue our work
In 2014, the Santa Monica Daily Press, a local newspaper in Santa Monica, California (pop. 92,000), approached us to co-sponsor a debate featuring the candidates for the Santa Monica City Council, Board of Education, and Community College Board, and to create a website, voter information guide and candidate matching quiz for those elections modeled after our 2008 and 2012 Presidential election sites. We accepted the challenge of building and launching our site on two weeks' notice so we could test the local election concept in a relatively small setting. The test was successful. In addition to generating positive feedback from candidates, voters and our press partners, we were able to learn a number of things about the navigability, marketing, timing and method of preparing the website that will enhance our future election websites.
All candidates competing for the multiple open seats in these races completed our issues quiz, which enabled voters to see where each candidate stood on the issues. During the debates, we enabled voters to access the ProCon.org local election site on computer terminals located at the debate venue. The moderator of the debate directed a number of questions to the candidates based on their quiz answers and positions on the ProCon.org site.
We launched our local election website on October 7, 2014. During the 27 day period between then and Election Day, more than 1,300 unique visitors used the website, a number equal to 5.4% of the approximately 24,000 people who voted in the election. The margins of victory in the three races were 920 for the City Council, 256 for the School Board and 157 for the College Board. With more time to prepare, more direct control by ProCon.org over the content, and funds to market the election site to voters, we are confident that we could engage a significantly greater percentage of local voters.
On Sep. 10, 2014, we launched http://school-uniforms.procon.org/ which asks the core question "Should students have to wear school uniforms?" Our 51st website explores the pros and cons in the debate over mandatory school uniforms. Almost one in five US public schools required students to wear uniforms during the 2011-2012 school year, up from one in eight in 2003-2004. Proponents say that school uniforms make schools safer for students, create a "level playing field" that reduces socioeconomic disparities, and encourage children to focus on their studies rather than their clothes. Opponents say school uniforms infringe upon students' right to express their individuality, have no positive effect on behavior and academic achievement, and emphasize the socioeconomic disparities they are intended to disguise.
The site received 213,980 pageviews in 2014 alone.
ProCon.org for Teachers
ProCon.org expanded the list of schools where an educator uses or has used ProCon.org from 3,560 schools at the end of 2012 to 4,571 schools at the end of 2013 - an increase of 1,011 schools (28.4%). We add schools to this list when we see that an educator (not a student) from that school has referenced ProCon.org online, usually in a lesson plan, suggested resources list, social media reference to our content, published work, or as a response to our two-minute ProCon.org teacher/librarian survey. We include a PDF of the lesson plan, when available, so that other educators can get ideas and draw inspiration from each other.
Those schools were from 65 different countries including (in alphabetical order): Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belize, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Ghana, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Vietnam, and Yemen.
The breakdown of schools by level is as follows: 1,053 elementary and middle schools (23%), 2,356 high schools (51.6%), and 1,162 colleges and universities (25.4%).
In 2014, we will continue to make our extensive resources available to teachers, librarians, administrators, and other educators. We believe that most of the approximate 100,000 schools in America would love ProCon.org if only they knew about it. We would appreciate it if you would tell all the teachers, librarians, administrators, other educators, and students you know about us and our work.
Email Updates & Reader Responses
We started the year with 98,725 email subscribers and ended 2014 with 120,771. We sent 17email newsletters in 2014. Some of the more colorful and interesting emails, responses to our newsletters, and "contact us" form submissions are provided below.
"Organizations such as yours are vital to the health of our democracy." Bill McClellan, Dec. 22, 2014
"I continue to use ProCon.org as a source for conversation starters in the classroom on issues that then turn to critical compositions, thought papers, or other activities. I also use the information to get students to begin building persuasive campaigns to convince others to take their side on an important issue. This helps lead students through concepts such as initiatives, petitions, and campaigns The tool is exceptionally useful for students who are college-bound." Cory Colby, Government Instructor at Willis High School (Willis, TX), Dec. 17, 2014
"Hi, I just want to say i absolutely love your website and the countless hours you have put in this website. I consider this website one of the few golden nuggets on the internet. I was in need of a topic when I stumbled upon this site and now its in my bookmark. Keep up the good work." Angus, Oct. 23, 2014
"We use it for our Socratic seminars during AVID classes and for supplemental materials during our persuasive writing activities. The kids have to choose a side, then research and see if they stayed the same because of their research." Kristy Koch, English teacher at Reardan Middle School (Reardan, WA) Sep. 8th, 2014
"In light of the e-mails and phone calls I've received from students, I can say that ProCon.org is indeed effective as an introduction to critical thinking on controversial public issues." J. Patrick Mullins, PhD, Associate Professor of History at Marymount University (Arlington, VA), Aug. 18, 2014
"The NY Common Core Regents requires an argumentative essay from 5 texts with support and citation. ProCon.Org is perfect for my students to practice this type of writing. I also use it with my AP Language & Composition course." Gloria Ackman, English teacher at West Canada Valley High School (Newport, NY), Aug. 4, 2014
"I really enjoy reading the articles, they are very insightful!! They keep me up with current events!! And as an older student (49) I find them very helpful in writing papers for my classes!!" Sandra Castellano, July 30, 2014
"I've been using your site in regards to getting to know state by state legislation for medical marijuana. It's fantastic. Keep up the great work!" Andrea B. Goldman, CFA, Esq., July 30, 2014
"I like procon.org because it has good information on it. It is detailed and it just tells it like it is without all the name calling or distortion that others put on it. It just leaves the decisions up to the person reading it. It has no bias or agenda just the bare facts. I like how it is formatted as well; it makes it easier to read. I like how the site is set up with easy to find references for it. It is very easy to navigate as well." Laura, July 18, 2014
"I have been aware of ProCon for a number of years. It is so good to rely on unbiased information offered relevant to important issues of the day. We need MORE expansion of ProCon!" Burton Danet, PhD., Rejuvenated Facilitator, Clinical Psychologist (retired), Founder, The ABC4All Legacy, July 18, 2014
"More fact-based public discourse is vital to our democracy and ProCon.org is helping to lead the way." Vance Peterson, July 1, 2014
"I have greatly enjoyed casually reading this website. It has certainly changed my opinion on several topics and forced me to consider both sides. For this I'd like to say thank you to this website." Brandon, Mar. 14, 2014
"Oh my goodness, I didn't know you all existed! I worked at the RAND Corporation and I thought that was the only place that could objectively analyze and present different perspectives of sensitive issues." Lynne Wainfan, PhD, Professor at California State University at Long Beach, Feb. 20, 2014
"ProCon.org provides an informative view of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one of the world's longest standing conflicts. The site objectively exposes the massive variations of opinion, narrative and fact, to give your readers the best 'big picture' understanding of the conflict and its potential solutions." Michael Weiss, author of The Bomb on the Rock and former IDF spokesman, Feb. 4, 2014
"I used ProCon.org in my classroom to help teach law students oral advocacy skills. My students carefully review ProCon's excellent topical pages and make three minute oral presentations on one side of a current event. This helps prime students for success in the oral advocacy portion of my Legal Skills course." Jason Potter, Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts School of Law (Dartmouth, MA), Jan. 5, 2014
"I recently heard your promotional spots on NPR, and was excited to check out the procon.org website. I am sorely disappointed. By using statements by TV personalities, Sarah Palin and congressional representatives who lack specific expertise, this makes a mockery of critical thinking." Karen, Dec. 1, 2014
ProCon.org Teacher Survey
We ran a ProCon.org Teacher Survey to receive input from teachers and librarians so we could understand how they use ProCon.org and to learn their views on whether or not using ProCon.org improves their students' critical thinking skills. The survey had 1,141 respondents between May 16, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2014. Some highlights from that survey include:
* 98.1% of teachers using ProCon.org reported that ProCon.org improved their students' critical thinking skills.
* 99.0% of teachers using ProCon.org reported that their students found ProCon.org useful.
* 100% of respondents said they would recommend ProCon.org to teachers and librarians.
It was our fifth year in a row with all indicators of success over 96%. It was also our second year in a row of getting a 100% recommendation rate.
Media and ProCon.org
ProCon.org received 471 media references in 2014, compared to 344 in 2013, a 37% increase. Our President and Managing Editor Kamy Akhavan was quoted 8 times on radio, on television, or in print publications across the country, by organizations including NBC News, Voice of America, Christian Science Monitor, and the Santa Monica Daily Press.
Notable 2014 media references included USA Today, US News and World Report, Forbes, NPR, Washington Post, New York Times, Rolling Stone, TIME, BBC America, PBS, ESPN, Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Education World, and Psychology Today.
WIBC 93.1 FM host Pete Dunn told his listeners on Apr. 20, 2014, "If you do feel one way about an issue, it behooves you to understand the other side of an issue. That's why I like ProCon.org. It presents both sides, it doesn't pass judgment on either side, it just shows you pros and cons to every question they have on the site."
PBS referenced Teacher Tenure ProCon.org in a Mar. 29, 2014 article titled "Teacher Tenure Rules Are in State of Flux Across the Nation," stating: "Pro/Con has put together a robust compendium on the issue designed for use in classrooms."
Santa Monica Daily Press referenced Local Elections ProCon.org in an Oct. 2, 2014 article titled "Candidate Matching Survey Featured at Squirm Night." The author wrote, "Santa Monica based ProCon.org, a sponsor of the Santa Monica Daily Press' Squirm Night, is developing an interactive survey that shows voters which candidate shares their values. The surveys are the organization's flagship product and the Santa Monica election will be the first time the system has been applied to a local election following successful implementation in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races."
Times-Picayune wrote about School Uniforms ProCon.org in a Sep. 18, 2014 article titled "From ProCon.org: Are School Uniforms a Good Idea?," stating: "The nonpartisan website ProCon.org presents the school uniforms debate this month. Along with the arguments, there are some pretty stunning stats... The ProCon mini-site is worth a read, especially if you like footnotes."
Board and Staff
ProCon.org hired a new CEO, Jay Rakow, to replace the Founder, Board Chairman, and now former CEO Steve Markoff. We have eight unpaid Board members, including three distinguished 2014 additions, Michael Klein, Joseph Magaram, and Jay Rakow. We ended 2014 with a staff of 7.5 full-time in-house employees (same as 2013) made up of four Researchers, one IT Director, one President & Managing Editor, one new CEO (me), and a part-time Schools Outreach Coordinator. We also had two Interns and two Volunteers contribute roughly 300 total work hours during the year.
Mr. Rakow previously served as President of The Lincy Foundation, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Paramount Pictures, Senior Executive Vice President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at Cornell University Law School.
Mr. Klein is an accomplished executive and entrepreneur with substantial experience in media and entertainment, investment banking, professional sports, venture capital, and real estate.
Mr. Magaram is a Senior Partner at the law firm of Valensi Rose, PLC. He was admitted to the bar in California (1962), and is a certified specialist in taxation law and probate, estate planning, and trust law.
We received charitable contributions from 238 donors in 2014 - a 35.22% increase from our 176 donors in 2013. For our latest financials, including charts and graphs, please visit the"Financial Info"section of our "About Us" page.
Oct. 8, 2014
For the first time, ProCon.org decided to bring its unique brand of voter education to local elections, starting with Santa Monica, California. The Local Elections website from ProCon.org gathers opinions from candidates for the Santa Monica City Council, School Board, and College Board on many important community issues. Visitors were able to read about each candidate, click on an issue to read candidate position statements, and take the candidate matching quiz to see which candidate best matched their views. 5,025 people visited the Local Elections website to help them decide which candidates to support. The margins of victory in the three races covered by ProCon.org were 586 votes (City Council), 264 votes (School Board), and 633 (College Board). The Local Elections website was created as part of a collaboration with the Santa Monica Daily Press.
Sep. 26, 2014
ProCon.org participated in a panel at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's 44th annual legislative conference. Kamy Akhavan represented ProCon.org on the 6-person panel to discuss "Teacher Tenure: Education or Politics?" The panel was hosted by the American Federation of Teachers.
Sep. 15, 2014
Jay Rakow succeeds Steve Markoff to become new CEO of ProCon.org. Mr. Rakow previously served as President of The Lincy Foundation, Senior Vice President and General Counsel of Paramount Pictures, Senior Executive Vice President of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., and Distinguished Practitioner-in-Residence at Cornell University Law School.
July 28, 2014
ProCon.org presented its 6th annual critical thinking seminar to high school students attending the Junior Statesmen of America’s "2014 Gene Burd Institute on L.A. Media and Politics” at UCLA. Also, for the 6th year in a row, the ProCon.org seminar was selected by the students as their favorite presentation of the week-long workshop.
July 12, 2014
Happy 10th anniversary, ProCon.org! Our little operation that started on July 12, 2004 with six topics and big aspirations has become America’s leading provider of free pro and con research on controversial issues with 50 topics and more in development. Thank you to the more than 70 million people who have visited ProCon.org over the last 10 years and helped us promote critical thinking, education, and informed citizenship. See our 10th anniversary page for more.
June 17, 2014
Phil Magaram and Michael Klein are officially voted onto the ProCon.org Board of Directors. Their impressive backgrounds and extensive experience add to the strength of our organization. Welcome aboard.
June 2, 2014
ProCon.org was nominated for the 2014 Los Angeles Business Journal Nonprofit & Corporate Citizenship Awards in two categories, Nonprofit Organization of the Year (Small) and Nonprofit Team of the Year. Thank you for the kind recognition.
May 8, 2014
Educators in over 5,000 schools have used ProCon.org. Our free resources have been used by teachers, librarians, and administrators in all 50 states and 66 countries (the latest was Egypt). The breakdown is 1,229 elementary and middle schools (24.6%), 2,547 high schools (50.9%), and 1,226 colleges and universities (24.5%). THANK YOU to the educators, our partners in promoting critical thinking, who helped us reach this milestone achievement.