Ministers want new league tables to push children currently getting C grades in their GCSEs up to Bs and As.
League tables to be published in November will give every school a mark from A to E to show how well it improved exam scores.
The tables will also include a new A-level-style points score for pupils, designed to reflect the marks children actually get, rather than just the number who get five or more grade Cs as at present.
Announcing the change, Education Minister Estelle Morris said parents would be offered more information than ever before about how their children's schools were performing.
She said: "A school which may have been complacent because of the number of children getting C grades will now have to push those children to get A and B grades to do well.
"Schools will also have to concentrate on improving the performance of children currently getting D and E grades, if they are going to get a good points score overall."
Tables currently measure the percentage of children who get five or more GCSEs at grade C or above, leading to claims that schools can concentrate on getting more children to achieve five C grades, rather than raising standards overall.
The new system, proposed in a consultation document published yesterday, will retain all the existing information about exam marks and truancy.
But they will also give points for each grade at GCSE , ranging from one point for a G to eight points for an A*. Tables will include an average number of points per pupil.
A progress index is to be introduced which will compare schools' GCSE results with their scores in national tests for 14 year olds and give an idea how well pupils progress.
Ms Morris said: "That's what we are looking for; no excuses, but solid, measurable improvement between these two stages.
"A points score will reward the hard work schools do with all pupils, so they will be under pressure to raise the achievement of all pupils," Ms Morris said.
Initially, the index will grade schools from A to E on whether their GCSE results are above or below the average for schools achieving similar scores in the Key Stage Three test for 14 year olds.
Ministers want to introduce even more sophisticated so-called value- added measures which track individual pupils as early as next year. A pilot will be launched in 200 schools this year.
The changes also include new A-level points scores, bringing in vocational GNVQs, and a separate table for children with special needs.
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "These changes are a move in the right direction, though they still fail to take account of the many factors external to a school which will impact on achievement."
David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "It is critical that the performance of secondary schools is judged across the entire ability range, otherwise the least able pupils, who the Government wishes to assist most, suffer a grave injustice."
But Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of second largest teaching union, the NASUWT, warned: "The whole bureaucracy involved in the business fills me with horror. On no account must classroom teachers be drawn into the business."
More information for parents
The new school league tables include several extra measures designed to give more information to parents.
Main points include:
An A-level-style point score for GCSE exams, ranging from eight points for an A* grade to one point to a G. Schools will be measured on the average number of GCSE points gained by each pupil. Vocational GNVQs will also be included in the points tally.
A School Progress Measure, giving each school a mark from A to E. The grades will show how well schools performed at GCSE compared with their results in national tests for 14-year-olds.
The new table will show parents whether the GCSE results are better or worse than the average for schools getting the same results in the national curriculum tests.
Points scores for A-level standard advanced GNVQs, and a new points measure including both A-levels and GNVQs.
A measure showing the number of pupils with special needs getting Certificates of Achievement, a qualification designed for those who cannot cope with GCSEs.
All the current measures, including the number of pupils getting five or more good GCSEs, truancy rates, and conventional A-level point scores, will remain.Reuse content