By Victor Skinner
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Columbus Dispatch continues to peel back the layers on questionable last-minute grade and attendance changes at Columbus schools following the 2010-11 school year as a state investigation into data manipulation drags on.
The newspaper contends thousands of pieces of student data were changed in the week following the 2010-11 school year at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy, including 87 students’ final grades from failing to passing, and 5,700 student absences erased, the Dispatch reports.
But an attorney hired by the school district refutes the newspaper’s claims, and argues most of the changes are a misunderstanding.
“He said the district believes that only 6 of the 87 students in question had their grades changed, and one was for the worse,” the Dispatch reports.
“In most instances, we’re not seeing grade changes at all,” the attorney, Robert Trafford, told the newspaper, adding that the data used by the Dispatch is wrong.
“However it has been compiled, whoever put it together, had made a mistake of some kind,” he said.
Some students whose grades were changed told the Dispatch they were aware of the switch, and it was legitimate. Parents also told the newspaper some of the failing grades entered were a mistake, and rightly changed to Ds.
“At the time, I was failing. I did a lot of work to bring my grade up,” former student Rodney Daniels told the Dispatch.
Columbus school officials have also offered plausible reasons for many of the changes. Much of the work is done at the end of the school year as administrators and secretaries double-check student records, including grades and attendance, officials told the newspaper.
Regardless, some of the changes still smell fishy. According to district computer logs analyzed by the Dispatch, and a “source” that confirmed most of the data, three administrators at Linden-McKinley were responsible for the bulk of the grade changes at the school, although two secretaries made most of the actual changes.
The logs show the F-to-D changes were most often in classes students need to graduate, including English, math, science and social studies, the newspaper reports.
One secretary also deleted more than 5,700 student absences at Linden-McKinley.
“Grade-change logs also show that the secretary’s computer log-in was used to make the third-largest number of changes to exam grades, midyear grades and final grades in the entire district in 2010-11, having altered nearly 6,000. During the one week (following the end of school), 944 grades were deleted or changed by the secretary,” the Dispatch reports.