They are Barnet, Bristol, Derbyshire, Doncaster, Greenwich, Halton, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, Leeds, Lewisham, Oxfordshire, Plymouth, Rotherham, Salford, Sheffield, Solihull, Walsall and Worcestershire.
Among the criteria used to select the councils were the performance of their schools and the quality of their education development plans. Some of them are also involved in the Government's recently announced "Excellence in the Cities" initiative.
Chris Woodhead, the chief inspector, said: "LEAs have an important role in raising standards. Inspection by OFSTED and the Audit Commission holds them to account for their effectiveness in carrying out that role.
"At the same time, inspection has an important part to plan in informing LEAs themselves of the improvements they need to make, which are often considerable."