"Our aim is to have fairness within a challenging framework," Donald Dewar, the Secretary of State, says.
The plans anticipate that nearly 50,000 pupils will benefit from better Standard grade and Higher results over the next three years.
Secondary schools will have to agree targets with education authorities and report them to the Scottish Office by June. Authorities will have until November to agree 5-14 targets after attainment data is collected by HMI.
Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, told The TES Scotland: "We now have a balance between the essential need for a national framework and the credibility that comes from having a local input. Schools will be able to apply their local knowledge in consultation with education authorities to vary their targets up or down."
"Benchmarking information" will be given out next month (September for 5-14). The Inspectorate's audit unit will derive this from each school's attainment averaged over the three years from 1995-97, set against the school characteristic index (SCI) based on free school meal entitlement.
This will produce groups of similarly performing schools.