More than one in eight secondary schools in England were judged to be "inadequate" by school inspectors last year, Ofsted's annual report says.
Chief Inspector Christine Gilbert wants parents to do more
The inspectorate has "raised the bar" on the performance level expected.
The report also shows standards were judged to be good or outstanding in nearly 60% of schools - highlighting a gulf between the best and the worst.
Among primary schools, 7% were judged inadequate, but only 2% of special schools - and no nursery schools.
Chief inspector Christine Gilbert said: "I'm concerned about the gap between the best and worst provision.
"Too many schools are inadequate - about one in 12 of those inspected, and in secondary schools this proportion rises to just over one in eight.
"We want all of our schools to make a positive contribution to the life chances of children and young people."
She said parents could be "a major force for change" and should put pressure on weaker schools, such as asking why no homework had been set.
The new Education and Inspections Act allows parents who are unhappy with a school to complain directly to the chief inspector, if all local avenues have been exhausted.
Ms Gilbert also said that children in public care were inadequately supported in almost half of local authorities.
About 200 (1%) of schools fall into the most serious category where they are put into special measures and where school leadership is deemed incapable of achieving change.
Another 300 (1.5%) have been served with a notice to improve, meaning they require significant improvement.
A total of 23 schools on special measures were closed over the past year, including 13 primary schools and three secondary schools.
Schools Minister Jim Knight said significant progress had been made on reducing failing schools since 1998.
He added: "Every young person should get the highest quality education and we are clear that every school should be a good school."
He said direct comparisons between school judgements in this year's report and previous ones would be misleading, as the inspection regime now was the toughest it had been.
"Schools that may have been judged as good in previous years might only be judged as satisfactory now," he said.
"However, we make no apology for raising the bar. Expectations are higher than ever and judgements need to be tougher than ever.
"No school should be inadequate and there should be no hiding places for underperformance or coasting."
Shadow education secretary David Willetts said the way to bridge the worrying gap between best and worst was to concentrate on discipline, improving behaviour and more streaming and setting in all schools.
"There is one success story - special schools," he said.
"But the government is putting more effort into closing good special schools than closing inadequate secondary schools."
There should be a moratorium on special school closures.
Liberal Democrat spokeswoman Sarah Teather said criticism from Ofsted had to be matched by practical support.
Underperforming schools were more likely to have non-expert teachers in key subjects such as maths and science.
"Time and money needs to be invested in turning these situations around with more training for existing teachers and greater incentives to become a head teacher."
Funds should also be targeted on individual pupils who were underachieiving.
The head of the NASUWT teachers' union, Chris Keates, dismissed "the same old tired annual report".
"NASUWT hopes that under the leadership of the new chief inspector, Ofsted will abandon its fascination with failure and adopt a fresh start for itself, as it has recommended so many times for so many schools," she said.
The Association of School and College Leaders said Ofsted was setting up schools for failure and was part of the problem, not the solution.
"Whenever Ofsted introduces a new framework, there are problems for schools inspected in the first year," said general secretary John Dunford.
Last year it had taken inspectors six months to learn to use the new progress measure known as contextual value added (CVA).
"Some of the schools judged inadequate during this period have been left with a seething sense of injustice," he said.