The Syracuse Teachers Association today challenged the way the State Education Department set growth scores for students who took last April’s standardized tests, filing a lawsuit charging the state failed to adequately take into account the effects of poverty and, as a result, wrongly penalized teachers who work with the most disadvantaged students.

The suit filed in state Supreme Court in Albany by the STA and about 30 city teachers, and supported by New York State United Teachers, argues SED did not properly account for the devastating effects of student poverty on achievement when it set growth scores on state tests in grades 4-8 math and English Language Arts.

Growth scores are computed by SED based on student performance on state standardized tests, and then factored into teacher evaluations.

About 80 percent of Syracuse students qualify for a free- or reduced-price lunch. In addition, Syracuse is one of the most under-funded districts in New York state, with city schools receiving $4,455 less per student than they would have received under the 2007-08 state budget agreement.

“Syracuse teachers should be heralded for their work helping some of the state’s most vulnerable children learn. They should not be unfairly and inaccurately labeled based on state tests that have been totally discredited,” said NYSUT President Karen Magee.