Specialist schools - which the Government has made central to the drive to raise standards - account for less than 5 per cent of secondaries ranked as outstanding by Ofsted, even though around a third of secondaries are now specialists.
In contrast, more than 24 per cent of those commended were faith schools - a disproportionate figure as they make up only 16 per cent of secondaries.
The Specialist Schools Trust (formerly the Technology Colleges Trust) refused to comment on the results.
Professor Richard Pring of Oxford University said it was a surprise that so few specialist schools should appear on the list, particularly as they received extra funding from the Government.
"The justification for specialist schools is that they are supposed to raise standards," he said. "But this evidence puts that one, and possibly only, asset into question."
Despite the shortage of outstanding specialist schools, the chief inspector said that specialists, particularly language colleges, tended to have a higher proportion of pupils with five A*to C GCSE grades than other schools.
A total of 86 secondaries and 300 primaries were judged outstanding, as well as 18 special schools, 28 nurseries, 21 further education colleges and five pupil referral units.
The report named 157 schools removed from special measures last year. The number placed in special measures was 129. That leaves 272 schools in special measures. There were another 201 schools deemed to have serious weaknesses.
List of outstanding schools at www.ofsted.gov.uk