Virginia education officials are considering a proposalthat would permit the granting of different kinds of high school diplomas depending on students' performances on competency tests and other criteria.

A decision on the proposal, which would create four types of diplomas, is several months away, according to Henry W. Tulloch, president of the Virginia Board of Education.

The general Assembly, in this year's session, mandated that by 1981 all students at public and private high schools pass state-prescribed reading and math tests in order to get their diplomas.

In March the state board approved using a commercially-prepared test throughout the state to meet the requirement, but it took no action on what to do with students who do not meet the minimum levels of competence.

The plan being considered by department officials would allow most students to receive a "level" 3"diploma, which signifies that the students passed the new minimum competency tests and the traditional 18 academic credits required for all graduates.

A "level 4" diploma under the proposal would be given to students who excelled in their work and would be comparable to graduating with honours.

Students who meet only one criterion either passing the competency tests or getting the 18 credits, would be awarded a "level 2" diploma. Students unable to satisfy either requirement would receive a artificate of attendance instead of a diploma, under the proposal.

Officials also are considering including a transcript of the students' grades, attendance records and extra-curricular activities in the back of diplomas.

"The high school diploma generally in the minds of employers has signified some sort of accomplishment," Tulloch said. But it does not any more, he said.

"We're looking at the diploma to see if we might change the system," he said. "We're trying to find something more specific."

Last week, North Carolina adopted a two-level diploma plan that beginning in 1980 will award diplomas to students who meet all the graduation requirements and a certificate to those fail the competency tests. Both documents will include a list of the students' courses and attendance records.

Opponents of multilevel diploma systems charge that the proposals are confusing and that receiving the certificate of attendance is demeaning to students.

Tulloch said that, since the system will not go into effect until 1981, he does not want the board to rush into decision.

"I'm not anxious to jump into this until we've thought about it pretty carefully," he said.