Education Under Siege

  • December 1, 2020
Photo by Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

The Lewiston Sun Journal took on the impact of generational poverty made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.  Maine school systems with high poverty rates have long wrestled with student achievement. Editor Jennifer LaFleur worked with Reporter Lindsay Tice to detail what such inequities mean for schools and families, uncovering computer shortages, no broadband and lost learning caused by the pandemic that will have long-term impacts. She also worked with Reporter Steve Collins on the state’s need for better broadband coverage. Students from American University analyzed Maine education data and census data to identify schools in the region whose students performed worse than expected, even when factoring in poverty.  The project also revealed the schools working to overcome challenges with ingenuity and imagination to make sure their students are educated.

The Investigative Editing Corps gave us the support we needed to see through an important project on generational poverty in our communities, including help analyzing piles of data and crafting clear graphics to help our readers understand the deep and lasting damage poverty inflicts on families. Jennifer LaFleur, our project editor, kept us focused, kept us moving and kept us motivated.

Judith Meyer

Editor: Jennifer LaFleur

Jennifer LaFleur is data editor at The Investigative Reporting Workshop and teaches at American University.  She previously was a senior editor at Reveal/CIR, data editor at ProPublica, The Dallas Morning News, the San Jose Mercury News and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was NICAR’s founding training director and has won awards for her coverage of disability, legal and open government issues. She can be reached at or @j_la28. 

This project also included contributions from American University students Thomas Furlong and Matthew Thibault.