Figures show that black students of Caribbean origin got the worst results of any ethnic group in last summer's GCSE exams in England.
It's the first time the government has produced statistics showing pass-rates across ethnic groups.
The government is seeking people's views on the best way to raise the educational achievement of students from some ethnic minorities.
It is consulting on a strategy to improve the training of school staff, reduce exclusions among certain groups and increase the support for bilingual pupils.
The new figures show that students from black Caribbean families did far worse than others last year.
Highs and lows
Just over half of white pupils (51%) achieved five or more top GCSE or GNVQ grades - the national average.
They were significantly outperformed by pupils from Indian families, 64% of whom did that well.
Doing best of all were the 12,000 or so Chinese pupils, 73% of whom got the top grades.
NUMBERS OF STUDENTS
Black Caribbean 42,146
Black African 40,313
Black Other 25,991
But only 30% of those from black Caribbean backgrounds got five or more good GCSEs in 2002.
Having consulted on their intentions, ministers intend to come up with definite plans in the autumn.
Schools minister Stephen Twigg said the government was committed to removing barriers to
"There is no room for complacency when
we know that for many of the one in eight pupils who come from a minority ethnic
background, achievement levels remain unacceptably low," he said, at a conference organised by the New Local Government Network.
"It is our duty to raise standards right across the board, but we can't do this alone; it is vital that we maintain and develop effective partnerships in
order to drive forward reform, not only with national organisations such as the
Commission for Racial Equality, but also with local education authorities,
community groups, schools, parents and young people themselves."
The Commission for Racial Equality is keen to work with the government.
The organisation's head Trevor Phillips said recently that poorer exam results were "not principally about class, family circumstances or about motivation".
"It is not good enough to say that if we raise the level in the pool, everyone will float upwards," he said.
"Far too many children seem chained to the bottom and some are drowning before our eyes."
The government said a year ago, when similar concerns were raised by the Labour MP Diane Abbott, that it was setting up a multi-organisation task force to deal with the issue.
One of its aims was to recruit more teachers from ethnic minorities. The Teacher Training Agency says its target of 7% of trainees from minority ethnic backgrounds by 2001/02 was achieved.
It is now seeking to raise this to 9%, the same as in the population at large, by 2005.
The new figures are another fruit of that task force.
They have become available as a result of the annual census of England's school population carried out each January, now being done electronically for each pupil.
Because they give actual individual achievements, they are more accurate than previous surveys of limited numbers of students - though broadly in line with those.
Until now the nearest equivalent was the official Youth Cohort Study published every two years.
The latest report from this showed recently that although black GCSE achievement had been rising, it fell back in 2002.