Ministers announced this week that, from the summer, data will be collected from every secondary showing the proportion of pupils achieving level seven or eight - two or three levels above what is expected - in key stage three national English, maths and science tests.
It will be published school by school in national league tables early in 2009.
Lord Adonis, schools minister, said: "There are very able pupils in every school but they can often go unrecognised.
"Identifying and celebrating high attainment encourages schools to focus on those who need extra help because they have particular abilities and talents, which is just as crucial as helping those who are at risk of falling behind."
But Steve Sinnott, NUT general secretary, said the change could increase the polarisation between schools by encouraging the most motivated parents to seek out those with the most gifted pupils. It was "probably the last thing that schools need", he said.
The change is part of the Government's campaign to encourage all schools to identify pupils for its national gifted and talented programme.
Currently only 91 per cent of secondaries and 65 per cent of primaries do so.
John Dunford, Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, described the measure as a "thoroughly retrograde step".
He said: "It will have no bearing whatsoever on schools' attitudes to the gifted and talented programme, which is supposed to encourage them through stimulating activities, not push them to artificially high levels in a test, the importance of which is already overrated."
But some classroom teachers were more positive.
Zoe Wood, a science teacher at the Grange school in Christchurch, Dorset, said: "We do need to focus more on giving all pupils extra help and sometimes the gifted and talented can be neglected slightly."
Michael Wood, an English teacher and assistant head at The Chase School in Worcestershire, said that tests were only a crude way of identifying the gifted and talented.
But he said: "It doesn't fill me with horror. The idea that gifted children are identified is just as important as those that don't do so well."