Officials at the Qualifications and Curriculum Assessment Authority published the "benchmark information" after analysing the performance of primary and secondary schools across the country in GCSEs and in the tests held for children aged seven, 11 and 14.
Schools' social backgrounds were assessed according to the percentage of pupils getting free school meals and the proportion who do not have English as a first language.
Councils are being sent copies of the tables and the Department for Education and Employment is due to draw regulations to make sure the targets are set from the start of the new school year in September.
Launching the initiative David Hawker, head of the authority's curriculum and assessment division, said: "For too long, too many schools have been in the dark about how other schools like them are performing nationally.
"This has often meant that under achievement is not properly recognised and tackled.
"Now for the first time this information is available in easy to read tables.
"We believe that the benchmark tables will be extremely useful for schools in assessing their success against similar schools and in setting targets for improvement," Mr Hawker said.
He added that the difference between the top 25 per cent of schools and the bottom 25 per cent of some types of similar schools was "quite startling".
Schools would be expected to copy their peers and set their own targets in conjunction with local councils. Timetables for improvement would also be set locally.
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