IN A FRONT-PAGE story this week, The New York Times heralded a report issued by the United Federation of Teachers announcing that crime against teachers in the New York City schools was down 22 percent during the last academic year. That sounds like good news, and it is, in relative terms. The statistics the report reveals however, tell a sorry, even frightening tale.

For the last eight years, the teachers' union had kept track of what was thought to be an increasing number of crimes committed by students against teachers and school administrators. In 1980-81, for example, students in the Big Apple committed 3,534 assaults, robberies and larcenies against these school personnel. The good news announced last week is that the figure has now dropped to 2,730 such crimes a year, two-thirds of which involved physical assaults. These figures do not include crimes against students or others on school property, just against teachers and administrators. New York spends $24 million a year on school security and employs more than 1,700 security guards, and still the crime continues at a rate that is improved but nevertheless disturbing.

Does Washington have problems on a similar scale? Fears were raised on Thursday when David Attaway, an administrator at the Bundy Special Education School, was shot and critically wounded by two teen-agers who had apparently entered the school to steal a typewriter. Fortunately, however, such assaults are rare in this city's schools. According to the Division of Safety and Security, there were only two reported incidents involving weapons on school property this year, and in only one case, that of Mr. Attaway, was a teacher or school administrator the victim of an armed assault. That is not to say that our schools are trouble-free. Students fight with and steal from each other, and vandalism remains a constant problem. But unlike New York, we do not seem to have a serious problem of violence directed against authority figures. Let's hope the pattern holds and that Mr. Attaway, the unfortunate exception to the rule, has a speedy recovery.