Successful schools thrive on the backbone of internal accountability and commitment, according to a report called Schools that Work.
The study, commissioned by the education department, took place between June and September and the report was publicised by Education Minister Naledi Pandor yesterday.
Pandor said the department wanted to know why some schools performed better than others to try to find common practices that could be passed onto struggling schools.
The research was based on the premise that the majority of South African schools are black schools, which have pupils with relatively poor socio-economic circumstances.
It is these mainstream schools, not the privileged schools, that most South African pupils attend.
Pandor said: "The report confirms it is possible for schools in the mainstream of South Africa's education system to perform at outstanding levels.
"It also highlights the fact that these schools achieve this success as a result of extraordinary commitment, competence and accountability."
The committee, which comprised teacher's unions, higher education academics and the department, found that a team approach had given the schools an extra boost compared to others in the same category.
The committee wrote: "There can be no doubt that the good results of these schools are produced by the commitment of principals and teachers. This emerged as one of the most powerful themes in our study of Schools that Work."
The report recommended provincial education department provides support through recognition and incentives.