D.C. School Superintendent Vincent E. Reed called a press conference yesterday to announce that the school system is setting "targets" for improving pupil performance on national standardized tests to be given next spring.

Reed said city public school students in the third, sixth and ninth grades who are to be tested will be expected to attain the "targets.", but no penalty will be imposed if the "targets" are not reached.

Reed said the "ultimate goal," is for city pupils to reach national norms but he said he has no specific date in mind for that.

"This is not just a public relations gesture," Reed said of his announcement. "We want to inform the public of where we want to go . . . we can't go directly to the national norms but in the meanwhile we'll have targets."

Reed proposed the following targets for pupil performance on national tests that are to be administered in May.

City third graders who averaged 3.0 in reading and 3.4 in math on the test last year will be expected to get an average score of 3.4 in reading and 3.6 in math. The national norm for third graders taking the test has been 3.8 in both areas.

Sixth graders who averaged 5.1 in reading and 5.8 in math will be expected to average 6.0 in reading and 6.4 in math. National norms for sixth graders taking the test are 6.8 in reading and in math.

Ninth grades who averaged 6.8 in reading and 6.7 in math are expected to attain average scores of 8.0 in both reading and math. National norms for ninth graders are 9.8 in both subjects.

Reed has recently been criticized by some city school board members for not producing any marked improvement in the school system's academic standing during the three years he has been superintendent.

Reed's three-year term as superintendent ends in March. Recently he sent the school board a letter asking that it decide on his reappointment by next week. A private meeting between the superintendent and the board has been scheduled for later this month to discuss his reappointment.

In an interview yesterday, Reed said he has had "several" job offers but he wants to stay in the school system, even if he is not reappointed superintendent.

"I'm not a accepting any job offers," Reed said, "Whether I'm reappointed or not I'm going to stay in the school system. My commitment is to the system's children.

Some board members have complained that Reed is a strong-handed administrator who often displays a condescending attitude to the board.

"I do think I run the system," Reed said, "but I'm not condescending. I respect the board . . . collectively."

Reed said he believes he has enough support among school board members to keep his job.