Maryland sank with the nation in Tuesday's bleak federal report on students' science performance, and to add insult to injury, across-the-Potomac rival Virginia sailed right past 'em. That's right: Virginia was a relative winner in the Nation's Report Card science results, and we're hearing that their state's science specialist is "tickled."

Nationally, fourth-grade students scored an average 149 points out of 300 on the federal test, with 29 percent falling in the "below basic" score range. With an average 150 points and 28 percent of students "below basic," Maryland performed comparably. A spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education said he was tied up in meetings and hadn't looked at the report, even though it was pre-released last week.

So, we reached out to Montgomery County Public Schools, who are usually quick to point out that their standards are superior to the state's. We threw them a softball question — tell us about the rigors of your science curriculum — but they declined to comment.

Unsurprisingly, recipients of better news were less defensive. In the land of Virginia, where fourth-graders grabbed 162 points — second only to New Hampshire's 163 — and where just 16 percent of students fell "below basic," a state spokesman had a press release ready and rarin' to go. Fairfax County Public Schools quickly patched us through to its science coordinator.

Unfortunately, Virginia's victory is only relative: No one really won here. Only 1 percent of students in both Virginia and Maryland scored in the "advanced" range. By the eighth grade, 40 percent of Maryland students and 30 percent of Virginia students scored "below basic" in science. (Nationally: 38 percent.)

A double-digit achievement gap between white and Asian students and their black and Hispanic students persisted in every grade. Male students outperformed female students in every grade.

No one proved whether or not the Loch Ness monster is real. We have a long way to go.