I have two groups of images I can use for the photo essay, one with a stronger story, the other with stronger images.
What would you recommend I use for this assignment?
Oughf, that is a challenging question and I want to congratulate you on creating enough work to have this challenge. Both have merit and I can see why are you considering both. Unfortunately, I can’t pick for you. Editing (which is choosing which photos to show) is an important skill all photographers need to acquire or learn. To paraphrase Jay Maisel (a reputable street photographer), “No one will know how great of a photographer you really are if you show them everything. You must choose your best and show only that work.”
In the process of making your choice, this may/may not help. All assignments after the Rules assignment will be graded on composition. The new element with the photo essay is learning to tell a visual story. Consider if the order in which your photos are presented will highlight the best of both works, then go with the one your gut tells you to use.
Also keep in mind, that all work submitted on time can be reworked and then submitted again for regrading. Your grade will never go down by this process. It can only go up.
Hope this helps,