Technician standing with working screwdriver and orange helmet

EdTA and the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) are rolling out a preview of  the BACKstage Technical Theatre Exam for high school students to members.

The BACKstage Exam defines and assesses the basic knowledge and skills an entry-level entertainment technician should have when entering the workforce or a higher education training program. The exam also includes resource materials for educators to help them prepare their students for the test.

According to EdTA Policy and Advocacy Advisor Jim Palmarini, the exam is the result of two years of close collaboration between USITT and EdTA, with the goal of creating a test that validates school-based technical theatre programs and helps to better define what teachers need to broaden student access to learning in the field. 

"We envision BACKstage as a game-changer."

“We envision BACKstage as a game-changer,” said Palmarini. “Teachers don’t all necessarily have the resources and training to teach the full range of technical theatre and there has been no reliable test to measure their students’ learning. We hope BACKstage can change that, helping both the educator and the student understand the depth and range of their school’s program and their own knowledge/skills.”

Why Take This Preview Now?

Whether you are thinking of ways to re-calibrate your technical theatre program for the 2022-2023 school year or simply want to do an end-of-term assessment of your students’ knowledge and skills, here are five reasons why the spring preview launch of the exam is a good fit for you and your students.

  1. Indicates readiness of students entering the job market or higher education. BACKstage was built as a test for entry-level technicians. Completion of the exam this spring can serve as a resume-building validation of your students’ competence and help them self-assess their skills and knowledge so they can plan their own training going forward, whether they are seeking a job or entry into a higher education program.
  2. Assess the efficacy of your instruction and curriculum. Exam test scores can clarify the strength of your curriculum and teaching practice across all areas of technical theatre. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses can help you make the case for specific professional development that will improve your instruction and student learning and create a more fully realized curriculum that allows for student growth over time.
  3. Measures the tools and resources that support your program. The exam addresses eight different areas of technical theatre. Teaching each aspect, whether it’s costuming, lighting, or sound, demands sophisticated state-of-the-art tools that allow hands-on learning. This is an opportunity for you to advocate for hardware that can help your students become the well-rounded technicians they need to be to succeed.
  4. Validates technical theatre as a viable CTE career path. If your school is invested in Career and Technical Education, BACKstage’s reliable measurement of student knowledge and skill serves as a “program completer” test that validates the discipline and can help you make the case for technical theatre with your district and state department of education, which, in turn, may support your application for public funding of your program.
  5. Showcases a school program and students who are not always honored. It has been hard to teachers and students to re-enter the in-school learning environment. Live, onstage productions are back, but they’ve not been easy. BACKstage is good news about a school program and its students that do not always get the due. Taking the exam this spring is a sign that learning is taking place, that students are growing, and that they matter.

How Do I Access the Exam?

Access to the spring preview exam is $26 per student and is available through June 30, 2022. Interested teachers and/or students can register to take the exam here. The test consists of 100 randomized questions to be answered during one continuous 90-minute time period.

The full-year exam will become available in August and will include access for students to take a fall and spring exam to demonstrate growth.

View and take a 20-question sample test.

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