The editorial "Merit Pay for All Teachers?" {May 19} cites the major teachers' association's preliminary vote in favor of Fairfax County's proposed merit pay plan as "a commendable act." The editorial goes on to question the association's recent decision to slow efforts to put that plan into action.

Is it not surprising to The Post that some of the early and most important assurances and proposals of our school officials have not been honored as originally offered? For example, specific language that guaranteed a no-quota promise was arbitrarily dropped. As a teacher in an elementary school in Fairfax County, I'm glad the association upheld its responsibility to its members to guard against such sneaky tactics.

If The Post had bothered to monitor the manner in which this pay plan was piloted, how evaluators were selected and the subsequent communications to the teachers, it would have witnessed much confusion and unprofessional bickering on the part of our school officials. Also, in the evaluative process itself, there are no objective standards with which to measure teacher performance, and the concerns about quotas and cronyism are not unfounded.

Moreover, this idea of merit pay for performance is not the creation of our superintendent. For several years, at least, school board members have been listening to the many voices from the business world that have advocated merit pay as an incentive to produce improved educational output. This idea has no realistic place in education. Rather, it belongs in a profit-making environment.

I see clearly that the motives, goals and values of teachers and merchants are different if not contrary: merchants are motivated by profit, and their strategies include stiff competition and at times cold and secretive means. On the other hand, teachers are open and cooperative with their colleagues, which is a major strength of our schools. Can anyone imagine that teachers will continue to share with and help each other if we are being compared and contrasted with each other? How can we acquiesce when we all realize that financial resources are finite and only some of us (20 percent? 30 percent?) can be evaluated as top-notch teachers?

The students, parents and teachers of Fairfax County deserve the credit for our school system's superb reputation. This pay plan, as conceived, is superfluous and expensive. We don't need it. Why not consider a teacher-mentor program?

ALAN LENGEL Alexandria

How about considering merit pay based on group performance? This is not a radical concept; it is common in industry, usually based on group profit. For teachers, it could be based on the improvement (or lack of it) of their entire school in county-wide exams. This interdependency would encourage those things which foster overall group improvement -- teachers helping one another, extra training for teachers who need it, submersion of personal interest to the common good, concern for all students. At the same time, it eliminates many of the objections to merit pay such as personal prejudice by the evaluator, unfair distribution of difficult students and the need for an appeals procedure.

True, it doesn't differentiate among individual teachers' ability. But isn't the real objective improvement in education rather than teacher evaluation? The thought of good teachers coaching poorer ones for their own and the students' mutual benefit is an exciting concept. Group merit pay could make it happen.

CARL F. SEILS Bethesda