Primary school pupils in England could face formal tests at the age of seven - and a pool of "elite teachers" will be recruited to work in struggling schools in coastal towns.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is to announce a package of measures aimed at tackling underachievement. A target will require 90% of pupils to take core academic subjects at GCSE. Head teachers' leaders warned a teacher shortage in some subjects made that target "immensely challenging".
Mrs Morgan says the changes will help ensure "every young person gets the best start in life".
At present, she says, there are 20 local authorities where most pupils do not achieve five good GCSEs, including English and maths.
But Labour's shadow education secretary Lucy Powell said that rather than raising standards, the government has caused a "chronic shortage" of teachers.
In a speech on Tuesday, Mrs Morgan is announcing details of the pre-election pledge to create a National Teaching Service.
This will recruit a pool of 1,500 high-achieving teachers over five years who would be deployed to schools in areas with weak results, such as coastal towns.
There will be financial incentives for teachers to join this project, with an expectation they would spend two years in such schools.
"Too many young people aren't being given a fair shot to succeed because of where they live," Mrs Morgan will say.
Speaking to BBC Newsnight, she said she believed the scheme could help transform failing schools.
"Even one new teacher coming in from outside, bringing new ideas, bringing new experience, offering collaboration, it does make a big difference," she said.
She said she believed teachers would step forward for the scheme, even if it meant moving to a different part of the country.
Brian Lightman, leader of the ASCL head teachers' union, welcomed the National Teaching Service as a way of helping schools in parts of the country where they "simply cannot recruit teachers".
The education secretary is also announcing changes to the assessment system for primary and secondary pupils.
As well as the "baseline tests" when pupils start in Reception and national curriculum tests, often known as Sats, taken at the age of 11, the government is looking at a tougher approach to tests at the age of seven.
At present, there are teacher assessments, with schools sending their results to local authorities, but a consultation will consider moving to gathering results at a national level, perhaps with external testing and the publication of results.
There will be a consultation on changes, with the aim of creating a clearer measure for how pupils are progressing through primary school.
In secondary school, there is clarification of the target that all pupils will have to take traditional GCSE subjects, in the English baccalaureate.
This requires pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, history or geography, two sciences and a language.
There will now be a target of 90% of pupils, which will allow exemptions to be made by head teachers, such as for pupils with special needs. At present, about 39% of pupils take these subjects.