Arlington teachers need more incentive to enter and remain in the profession, school administrators, School Board members and some parents agreed last night.

But no one, including the members of a committee formed to develop an incentive plan, seemed able to agree on what type of rewards teachers should get or how they should be conferred.

A "career ladder" proposal was presented as one possibility at last night's board meeting by a committee told more than a year ago to design such a plan. It would be a four step system designed to "improve the instruction of students by providing an incentive within the teaching profession that identifies and recognizes excellence," according to the committee's report.

In this plan teachers could advance from "beginning teacher," similar to the current entry-level position, to "master teacher," a position with added functions of coaching other teachers, developing curricula and designing new projects. Master teachers would receive a $3,000 bonus in addition to their regular salaries each year.

The committee suggested the plan be phased in over a seven-year period at a cost of $1.6 million, It estimated that 20 percent of teachers eventually would be classed as master teachers.

Community groups, PTAs and individuals who have reviewed the proposal have attacked almost every major facet of it, and teachers have questioned the need for such a plan.

"I don't agree with the message that teachers will only do a good job if you dangle a carrot out in front of them," said Marjorie McCreery, executive director of the Arlington Education Association, which represents most of the county's 1,000 teachers.

Instead of the career ladder, teachers would prefer such benefits as sabbaticals or funding to attend professional conferences, McCreery said.

Other groups questioned what was described as "unwieldy" administrative work the career ladder plan would entail, its fairness, its lack of an evaluation system and its cost. Without an adequate system to evaluate teachers and determine who might qualify to be a master teacher, "we're building a career ladder in sand," said School Board member Frank K. Wilson.

In addition, some have criticized the concept of master teachers, claiming that a salary bonus for performing out-of-classroom duties amounts to "extra pay for extra work," not a true career reward.

Faced with such wide-ranging criticisms and unable to address them without making major changes in the plan, the committee is now groping for some direction from the board, said Henry D. Gardner, assistant superintendent for personnel and the committee's chairman.

The board is scheduled to consider the report and instruct the committee how to proceed at its next meeting Jan. 24.