Ethnic minority pupils are making more progress than their white counterparts in almost all areas of England, The TES has discovered.
Children from Chinese, Pakistani, Indian, Bangladeshi and black African backgrounds have, in virtually every local authority and in most schools, better "value added" scores for secondary education than white youngsters.
But the figures for other categories of black pupils were more mixed.
The findings, by academics at Bristol university, will intensify the debate about the relatively poor levels of progress made by white pupils and raise fresh questions about why this is happening.
The researchers believe the explanation lies in different families'
A team led by senior research officer Deborah Wilson used government figures to compare pupils' performance. They assessed whether the progress of each ethnic group between key stage 2 tests at 11 and their GCSE or equivalent exams was higher or lower than that of white pupils.
It found that the progress of Chinese and Pakistani pupils was higher in all local authorities. For Indian children, this was the case in 99 per cent of authorities; for black African, the figure was 98 per cent; and for Bangladeshi, 97 per cent. Pupils allocated to the ethnic category "other"
made better progress than their white peers in 90 per cent of local authorities; for black Caribbean children, the figure was 49 per cent; and the category "black other", 55 per cent.
In at least four out of five schools, Indian, Pakistani, black African and Chinese pupils had better value-added scores than white children.
The Bristol team's research was cited in a paper by the Blairite think tank, the Institute for Public Policy Research. The researchers did not believe that the figures could be explained entirely by minority groups "catching up" with their white counterparts. Indeed, they found that Chinese and Indian pupils began with better key stage 1 results, pulling further ahead as they got older.
Other groups, including Bangladeshi, Pakistani and black African youngsters, began behind whites but were not far in arrears by the time GCSE results arrived.
Last month, The TES revealed that poor white working-class boys have worse GCSE results than their counterparts from any other ethnic background. Some say the reason is lack of funding for projects to raise their attainment.
But Dr Wilson's team believes that, because the differences in progress appear nearly uniform across the country, non-school factors are likely to be more significant.
She said: "We think it's more about (pupil) aspiration." The research revealed that Asian families in particular placed a strong emphasis on education as the key to getting on in life.
Where ethnic groups progress faster between KS2 and KS4 than white pupils
% of schools % of local authorities
Black African 87 98
Black Caribbean 53 49
Black other 56 55
Bangladeshi 92 97
Indian 95 99
Pakistani 92 100
Chinese 86 100
Source: Centre for Market and Public Organisation, University of Bristol Institute for Public Policy Research