Every time that international test scores are released, there is a predictable clamor to “do something.”

President Obama said that our ranking on an international test was “a Sputnik moment” and reason to push harder for the “remedies” in Race to the Top. We now know that Race to the Top was a failure that had no positive results. Schools were closed, teachers were fired, many new charter schools opened, and performance on the NAEP in 2015–five years after the launch of Race to the Top–went flat.

Now we have the results of the latest international test, the Progress in International Literacy Study (PIRLS), and the news for fourth graders in the U.S. was not good.

The United States tumbled in international rankings released Tuesday of reading skills among fourth-graders, raising warning flags about students’ ability to compete with international peers.

The decline was especially precipitous for the lowest-performing students, a finding that suggests widening disparities in the U.S. education system.

The United States has traditionally performed well on the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, an assessment given to fourth-graders in schools around the world every five years. In 2016, however, the average score in the United States dropped to 549 out of 1,000, compared to 556 in 2011. The country’s ranking fell from fifth in the world in 2011 to 13th, with 12 education systems outscoring the United States by statistically significant margins. Three other countries roughly tied with the United States; they scored higher, but the differences were not ­notable.

What happened?

The Common Core (aka Common Core State Standards) was introduced across the nation in 2010-2011. The students now in fourth grade were the first cohort to get Common Core, starting in kindergarten.

Their reading scores went down, and it appears that the children who were likeliest to see declines were the lowest performing students.

The Common Core standards were written hurriedly, funded entirely by one man (Bill Gates), and rushed into implementation without any field testing whatsoever. Gates not only paid the hundreds of millions of dollars to fund the writing of Common Core, but he spent many more millions (some have estimated as much as $2 billion) to persuade advocacy groups and education organizations to support the adoption and implementation of the standards.

Would the FDA approve a drug for national use without field testing?

Of course not.

Our children were guinea pigs, and the experiment failed.

Almost every state in the nation has adopted Common Core. Some have rebranded it, but it is still Common Core.

What will states do now?

One of the most prominent advocates for Common Core was Jeb Bush, who is close to Betsy DeVos. They loved Common Core, because they expected it would cause widespread failure and hasten support for the privatization of public schools.

DeVos reacted to the declining scores on PIRLS by advocating for more school choice, more charters and vouchers.

In 2012, Joel Klein and Condoleezza Rice wrote a report claiming that public schools were so awful that they endangered national security. Their recommendations: more charters, more vouchers, and Common Core.

Friends, we can’t let these nihilists destroy our democratic system of public education.

Schools improve when they have adequate funding, not competition. Schools improve when students live stable lives, with access to food, medicine, and decent living conditions. Schools improve when they are staffed with professional teachers, not temporary, untrained teachers.

Common Core has failed our nation and our students. So have the privatizers.

Since the passage and signing of No Child Left Behind on January 8, 2002, the U.S. has been on the wrong track.

Can the “reformers” please admit their errors and change their ways? Or are they determined to keep pushing the same failed strategies without regard to evidence?