More than two-thirds of England's secondary schools now have specialist status, the government has announced.
Some 2,174 have raised the required £50,000 in sponsorship and passed criteria laid down by ministers.
The status means specialists - focusing on areas like arts, sport, languages and sciences - are given more money per pupil, in an effort to raise standards.
But Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins said the government's effort to improve schools was "half-hearted".
He added that the specialist schools programme would do "little to improve academic achievement, classroom discipline and school pride". If applicants for specialist status are successful, they get a one-off grant of £100,000 and then an extra £126 per pupil for four years.
Education minister Stephen Twigg said: "It is clear that specialist status acts as a driver for reform and a lever for raising standards.
"The programme is spearheading the movement away from the old 'one-size-fits-all' model to one where education is tailored to individual pupils."
In 2004, 57.4% of pupils in specialist schools achieved five or more grades A* to C at GCSE and equivalent, compared with 48.2% of pupils in non-specialist state schools.
The computer software firm Microsoft has announced it is donating £1.5m to support 100 schools applying for specialist status.