"Failure Factories," the Tampa Bay Times' investigation into Pinellas County public schools, has won a prestigious national award that recognizes the use of social science techniques in journalism.
Judges for the Philip Meyer award praised the reporters for "dogged work" and noted that "the results underscored what decades of sociological research has shown happens in racially segregated schools."
Times reporters analyzed millions of rows of data on black student performance and behavior and interviewed hundreds of parents, students and teachers.
Their investigation showed how the school district abandoned integration efforts in 2007 and then failed to follow through with promised resources for elementary schools that became predominantly poor and black. Today, the county's five most segregated schools are failing at rates far worse than almost any other schools in Florida.
In the wake of the stories, the Pinellas School District announced plans to turn several of the schools into magnet programs and hired a turnaround specialist to focus on its struggling schools.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan flew to St. Petersburg to meet with parents. He publicly accused the district of "education malpractice."
The Meyer award is administered through Investigative Reporters and Editors at the Missouri School of Journalism. First place went to Times reporters Cara Fitzpatrick, Lisa Gartner, Connie Humburg, Michael LaForgia, and Nathaniel Lash. Second place went to reporters from USA Today for their series "The Changing Face of America." Third place went to Thomson Reuters news service for "The Echo Chamber."