By Victor Skinner

COLUMBUS, Ohio – About 5,300 final grades for students in Columbus public schools were changed from failing to passing in the 2010-11 school year with the help of nearly 600 district employees, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

The changes, which were uncovered through state and federal investigations into data rigging, are now being examined more closely by state investigators and an attorney hired by the district to conduct an independent investigation, according to the newspaper.

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In total, Columbus school employees changed 311,000 final grades in 2010-11. Some changes were for the worse and some for the better. State and district officials won’t discuss the details of the changes until the investigations are complete, which isn’t expected to be any time soon, according to the Dispatch.

“You pull the string and watch the ball unroll,” State Auditor Dave Yost told the newspaper of the Columbus investigation. “I can’t possibly predict when we’re going to be done there.”

Some of the changes appear to be simple clerical corrections.

“For example, some students were assigned an ‘S,’ or satisfactory, mark when they should have been given an A-F letter grade. Some grades were changed for the worse. More than 1,000 grades went from a D to an F …” the Dispatch reports.

Other changes seem more suspicious.

Stanley K. Pyle, an assistant principal at Marion-Franklin High School in 2010-11, is responsible for 495 grade changes from D to F, or about 9 percent of the district’s failing-to-passing changes, according to the news report.

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A log provided by the district to the newspaper shows Pyle made more than 2,500 total grade changes, which included 75 final exam grades changed from failing to passing as well as some grades that were lowered. Pyle, who now works at Briggs High School in Columbus, is also accused of deleting at least 9,000 student absences in 2010-11, the Dispatch reports.

Assistant Principal Pamela Golatt, who worked at West High in 2010-11, also changed 115 failing grades to passing, according to the newspaper.

Neither Pyle nor Golatt responded to inquiries from the newspaper seeking an explanation for the changes.

Robert Trafford, the attorney conducting the independent investigation, said at least some of the changes may have been legitimate.

“I would not be surprising if there were certain individuals who had lots of grade changes, and there could be a perfectly legitimate reason for that,” he told the newspaper. “You’re looking at it, we’re looking at it. I don’t want to get into a piecemeal disclosure of what we’re seeing.”