When President Carter took office, a number of administration officials set up a report card system. The idea, in the name of good management, was to rate the speed, intelligence, dedication and ability of underlings they appointed, or inherited.

Many career bureaucrats, who believe they can do their jobs in their sleep, were angry at the thought of being monitored and rated by Georgia upstarts, ex-campaign baggage-handlers or political appointees who -- in some cases -- needed detailed blueprints to find the men's room. But now, in the report card game, the shoe is on the other foot.

Various administration officials -- top White House aides and Cabinet officers -- are themselves getting report cards.And employes are doing the rating in many cases. A passing grade could mean four more years of employment. Failure could shuffle them back to Plains, Portland or wherever they came from.

A major, politically supercharged "grading period" has just ended. And more Cabinet officers, like kids in late June, are awaiting their final grades from the nation's influential, fast-growing Hispanic community. The report cards -- called a "matrix" -- were devised by IMAGE Inc., a national organization aimed at getting better treatment, training and more and better jobs for Hispanics.

Politicians realize that the nation's Hispanic population is growing faster than most and that it already represents one of the biggest minority groups. Hispanic voters already have a major say-so in who gets elected in portions of New York, Florida, Texas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and California.

Hispanics started getting major attention when the country began electing presidents from the Sunbelt (Johnson of Texas, Nixon of California) who were aware of the Hispanic community its concerns and its votes.

Against that background, it is safe to assume that Carter aides, needing every vote they can get, will pay close attention to the Hispanic-employe evaluations of their big bosses.

The "Carter Cabinet Performance Appraisal" forms were sent out earlier this summer to Hispanic employes in major agencies and departments. They were to rate their bosses and come up with report cards that give a comprehensive analysis of their performance and dedication to the goals of "Hispanic America."

The checklists rated the officials on the following areas of expertise and/or sensitivity:

responsiveness to executive commitments;

affirmative action;

minority business enterprise;

external assessment of agency accessibility;

external assessment of agency responsiveness;

internal assessment of agency responsiveness;

Those who are being rated by the Hispanic group get a minus mark (-) if they are considered "not serious" or helpful to Hispanic concerns, a plus (+) mark if their subordinates approve of their performance and a goose-egg (0) mark if rated as "not trying."

Officials being rated include the secretaries of State, Defense, Housing and Urban Development, Treasury, Education, Health and Human Services, Energy, Justice, Labor, Interior, Commerce, culture, the White House itself and its Office of Hispanic Affairs; and top Carter aides Stu Eizenstat, Hamilton Jordon and Jack Watson.

Once the grades are in -- they're due any day now -- IMAGE will make the results known with wide preelection distribution in and out of government. IMAGE leaders hope to go over the results with Carter political advisers. The IMAGE officials will expect that the deficiencies noted will be targeted for improvement and/or that certain heads will roll. Otherwise, the leaders say, the nation's Hispanics, who are anxious for a bigger share of the pie of federal jobs, business and grants, won't give Carter the green light for a second term.