Earlier this month, former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and former Washington, D.C., Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee announced that their StudentsFirstNY education group intends to raise $10 million a year to make sure that Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education legacy continues after he leaves office. For many of us in low-income communities, this legacy is a lack of resources and persistent inequalities that deny our children a substantive and fair opportunity to learn.

At the Highbridge Community Life Center, we hear from many parents who say that we simply can’t afford this kind of reform, which isn’t much different from the failed policies of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). Without an emphasis on inputs and resource allocation, inequalities in education opportunity and attainment will persist. Struggling schools that lack adequate resources and strong teachers will face more arbitrary closings, firings and reforms in an attempt to “turnaround” the worse performing schools.

This approach continues to ignore the mounting evidence that reform focused exclusively on outcomes actually widens the achievement gap. It also amounts to a refusal to fix the growing inequities in educational funding that exacerbate student underachievement, posing the biggest roadblock to teacher effectiveness.

Many of our parents agree that we need to assess the performance of teaching staffs at our schools. However, they are also frustrated that the evaluations are based solely on how well their children perform on high-stakes tests. We know that these tests are not fully indicative of what a child knows or what proficiency level they’ve reached.

Our schools are being blamed for failure without an honest discussion about why and how many of these schools have been failing for years. If Rhee and Klein really chose to put students first, they would stop supporting the failed policies of Bloomberg and NCLB: labeling schools and teachers without appropriate measurements or supports, emphasizing testing over a well-rounded and balanced education and measuring outcomes without appropriate investments.

As outlined in the Schott Foundation for Public Education’s “2020 Vision Roadmap: A Pre-K Through Postsecondary Blueprint for Education Reform,” we need comprehensive, system-wide improvements. School financing needs to be equitably distributed throughout districts, with increased investments going to schools where students live in poverty, and it should always be focused on increasing opportunity and quality at every stage of a student’s life.

Our teachers need and deserve intense training before they ever enter a classroom, along with mentoring and support when they begin teaching. It should be a no-brainer that we need to develop new ways of assessing teacher performance and measuring student achievement that are fair to both teacher and student. We should reward good teachers and provide incentives that will entice highly qualified, experienced teachers into schools of high academic need.

We also need to encourage parent and community involvement through after-school and neighborhood programs or the establishment of parent advisory councils. Effective parent and community involvement can positively impact school culture, working conditions and student achievement. We see pockets of this in some schools in our community, but they are few.

If we are going to fix our schools and once again become a leader in postsecondary graduates, we must include the collaborative voice of the community–including parents, teachers, students and administrators–in order for the reforms to be sustainable and truly work. Our policies, practices and investments must support an aggressive and comprehensive approach to education reform that gives every child the opportunity to learn.

Ocynthia Williams is a community organizer with the United Parents of Highbridge, a parent- and community-led organization working to end inequities in the New York City school system and to improve the neighborhood of Highbridge.