Closely monitoring how pupils are performing and quickly identifying those under-achieving can improve their results, a new report says.
The study for the Institute of Welsh Affairs (IWA) looked at five schools in Wales with good inspection reports.
Each was found to use school-wide computer systems giving teachers up-to-date data on how every 11-14-year-old was doing in every lesson.
The IWA is calling for funding for other schools to learn from them.
Report author Dr Stevie Upton visited five successful comprehensive schools across Wales identified from their reports from Estyn, the schools inspection body.
They were Cwmtawe Community School in the Swansea Valley, Newtown High in Powys, St Joseph's RC High in Newport, Ysgol David Hughes in Anglesey and Ysgol y Preseli in Pembrokeshire.
Dr Upton spoke to managers, teachers and pupils about the experience of youngsters in their early years in secondary school.
She said a common factor was each school closely monitored individual pupil performances through the coordinated use of school-wide computer system.
It also contained information about their attendance, homework completion, support received and behaviour.
'Highly ambitious targets'
It meant teachers could quickly identify pupils who were under-achieving and ensure they were provided with any extra help they may need.
Each school also set "highly ambitious targets" for its pupils and every youngster was mentored by a single teacher.
Dr Upton said many schools already used computers to store information about pupils but what stood out at the five she visited was that teachers had access to information about "every pupil across every subject."
"It's a way of being able to identify any pupils who are under-achieving and responding very rapidly with extra support," she said.
The report, called Making a Difference at Key Stage 3, recommends that the Welsh Assembly Government provides funding for under-performing schools to learn from better performing ones.
But Dr Upton said that it was not calling for a "one size fits all" system.
"There is no substitute for observing good practice in practice," she said.
"It's one thing to hear about what's happening elsewhere but when you see what's happening on the ground its much easier for people to identify features that are transferable."