The Fairfax County School Board agreed last night to consider a new evaluation program for teachers intended to improve ways of identifying those who are outstanding and those needing help in improving their performance.

The proposed program, which would start in eight county schools at the beginning of the next school year, would also give teachers a role in judging the performance and competence of their colleagues for the first time.

School Board Chairman Mary E. Collier called the proposal "one of the most important things this board is involved in right now . . . . We'll be using our very excellent teachers to be doing evaluations and tapping into their expertise."

Teachers would be evaluated every three years on a five-point scale rating them as exemplary, skillful, competent, marginal or ineffective. The current evaluation method rates teachers annually as satisfactory, needing improvement or unsatisfactory.

After the first three years in the classroom, teachers judged competent or better would be entitled to advance from the entry-level position to Career Level I. Teachers rated marginal or ineffective would not advance, but receive career counseling, further training in teaching, or be fired.

After seven years and a second evaluation, those rated exemplary or skillful would advance to Career Level II, where they could counsel less experienced teachers or participate in special projects.

Doris Torrice, a deputy superintendent, said the proposed rating system could improve teacher morale by recognizing those teachers with outstanding classroom teaching skills.

"To identify the superior teachers will, at least, provide a great deal of satisfaction," Torrice said.

Rick Nelson, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, criticized the proposal for not providing teachers turned down for advancement with a way to appeal a poor evaluation.

As proposed, the new evaluation scale would not link teacher pay raises to job performance or rating.

Final action on the proposed evaluation plan is scheduled for the board's March 27 meeting.