If there were value-added evaluations for education journalism, GothamSchools would be in for a fall.

Fortunately, we learned recently that small year-to-year changes among top performers can sometimes cause outsized variation in value-added scores. That’s why we’re thrilled and not disappointed to be a second-place winner in a national competition for education journalism.

The Education Writers Association announced the winners of its 2011 contest on Thursday, and GothamSchools won second prize in the journalism blogging category. We had taken home the first-place prize in each of the first two years that the association awarded prizes for online journalism.

This year’s first-place blog winner was StateImpact Florida, a nonprofit news site about education that is produced by National Public Radio and three affiliate stations in Florida. The association also awarded a special citation to the staff of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook for their coverage of Philadelphia’s cheating scandal.

GothamSchools thrives because it operates as a team, and nine people helped make us great in 2011. In addition to our current team — Jessica Campbell, Rachel Cromidas, Geoff Decker, Elizabeth Green, and me —  the prize recognizes the work of two former reporters, Anna Phillips and Maura Walz, and two summer interns, Chris Arp and Sarah Darville.

Walz also won second place in the contest’s broadcast beat reporting category for her work at Georgia Public Broadcasting.

(Disclosure: GothamSchools’ Elizabeth Green serves on EWA’s board. The contest is judged by an external panel.)