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An Overview of the Standards



The National Theatre Standards were written collaboratively by members of the Educational Theatre Association and the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, both of whom are leadership organizations of the National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS). For more general information about the standards read the NCCAS FAQ.  You can download the standards here or by using the link above. 

To create customized workbook pages that meet your student and classroom needs, visit the NCCAS standards website at www.nationalartsstandards.org.


The standards feature two levels: anchor standards and performance standards. Anchor standards are overarching statements of what students should know and do in all of the arts as a result of their PreK-12 education. All the arts discipline—dance, media arts, music, theatre, and visual arts—have adopted the eleven anchor standards. Performance standards state what students should know and be able to do in a particular artistic discipline by the end of a specific grade or level. 

 The theatre performance standards are divided into four artistic processes: Creating, Performing, Responding, and Connecting. The standards are further divided into process component categories within each artistic process—three in Creating, Performing, Responding, and two in Connecting. The standards are grade-by-grade PreK through 8, and feature three levels in high school: proficient, accomplished, and advanced. In each component, there are a range of one to three “strands” of standards—sequential grade-by-grade learning outcomes that are intended to build towards student proficiency or better by the end of high school. 

To learn more about the philosophy and strategies behind the structure of strategies visit the NCCAS Conceptual Framework.


The theatre standards glossary includes terms that are referenced in the performance standards and the Model Cornerstone Assessments (MCAs); it is not intended as a comprehensive compendium of all theatre terminology. The words that are defined in the standards are highlighted in red; the glossary words in the MCAs are listed in a subhead vocabulary section of each assessment. Download the Glossary

 Model Cornerstone Assessments

The Model Cornerstone Assessments provided at the benchmark grades of 2, 5, 8, and the high school levels of proficient, accomplished, and advanced are examples of how theatre teachers can measure student growth. These assessment tools were piloted in classrooms across the United States, generating student work as “benchmarks” to illustrate the expectations of the standards. Teachers may adopt, adapt, and create their own MCAs as appropriate for their own students and classrooms. Read the Interview with UbD co-creator Jay McTighe to better understand Model Cornerstone Assessments.  

Explore Model Cornerstone Assessments

Copyright permissions guidelines

The Core Theatre Standards and the MCAs can be downloaded, printed, and disseminated for educational purposes without charge or permission. For any other purpose, please complete a copyright request for written permission.  Permission requests are subject to a processing fee of $25.

Explore copyright guidelines and the application on the NCCAS website.   

Guide to standards notation

The performance standards employ a notation system for quick and easy reference to a particular standard within each artistic processes. In sequence, the system references arts discipline, artistic process, anchor standard, process component, and grade. Here are a few examples of how to read the numbering system:

TH:Cr1.1.PK.—the TH is common to all theatre standards; Cr refers to the artistic process of Creating; 1 references anchor standard number one; the second 1 is the process component; and PK is pre-kindergarten. 

TH:Pr5.1.4.—Pr is the artistic process of Performing; 5 is anchor standard five; 1 is the process component; and 4 is grade four.

TH:Re8.1.6.—Re is the artistic process of Responding; 8 is anchor standard eight; 1 is the process component; and 6 is grade six. 

TH:Cn10.1.II—Cn is the artistic process of Connecting;10 is anchor standard ten; 1 is the process component; and the roman numeral II is high school level of accomplished.

Helpful Resources

Download the National Theatre Standards and supporting materials.

  • The Role of Cornerstone Tasks in the Next Generation of Theatre Standards
    In this 2014 interview with Jay McTighe, EdTA's Jim Palmarini explores the purpose of model cornerstone assessments.
  • Theatre Glossary
    This glossary was developed by the writers of the 2014 National Theatre Standards.
  • 2014 National Theatre Standards - Horizontal View
    View all of the 2014 National Theatre Standards in a scope and sequence, arranged in order by Artistic Process and moving from grade level performance standards in Pre-K through three levels of High School. (HS-I Proficient, HS-II Accomplished, HS-III Advanced).
  • 2014 National Theatre Standards: Creating
    Download all of the 2014 National Theatre Standards that align to the Artistic Process of Creating. The standards are packaged in a vertical view by grade; grades Pre-K through three levels of High School. (HS-I Proficient, HS-II Accomplished, HS-III Advanced)