Rather, it should be one of several methods designed to help unit leadership carry out the aims and mission of the Boy Scout of America. If your unit’s only focus is advancement, your Scouts will miss out on all Scouting can give them.
One way to test your effectiveness in unit program is with the Journey to Excellence (JTE) scorecard. This planning and performance tool uses a balanced approach to measure performance. It guides program planning before the year begins, monitors activities for continuous improvement during the year, and recognizes performance at the end of the year.
There are eleven areas of planning in the JTE for Troops:
- A meeting is held with youth leaders who are involved in developing the plan for the next program year. Then, the committee plans a budget to make that plan happen. The focus here is annual planning for a well rounded program, not an after school merit badge program.
- Build your troop using the Peer-to-Peer invitation initiative provided by BSA. Recruit boys from any location and register all appropriate-age LDS youth in ward.
- Retain a significant percentage of youth members; this is guaranteed by the bu of eligible youth members by using the Church MLS reports, and registering all boys.
- Have an effective plan to graduate and recruit Webelos Scouts into the your eleven-year old (EYO) Patrol. Hold at least two activities jointly between troop and pack’s Webelos den. Graduate Webelos Scouts into your EYO Patrol, using an appropriate Crossing Ceremony.
- Help at least 40% of your Scouts advance one rank during the year.
- The troop conducts at least four short-term or weekend campouts (at least one night) throughout the year. The goals is nine overnighters. Three of these should include the EYO Patrol.
- The troop participates in a long term-camp with 60% of the Scouts in attendance.
- The unit participates in service projects during the year and reports them through any means the district provides. (The projects may be completed as joint projects with other organizations.) Duty to Country projects may include items such as unit attendance at Memorial Day Services, observe non-partisan voting events, city and state meetings, visit the state capital and learn state history, flag retirement ceremonies, Scouting for Food, etc.
- Use the patrol method to develop leaders. The troop is separated into patrols, and each patrol has an elected patrol leader. If the troop has more than one patrol, there is an elected senior patrol leader. If this is the case, the PLC meets at least four times each year. The troop holds patrol leader training each year, and youth have the opportunity to participate in advanced training.
- Have a proactive approach in recruiting sufficient leaders and communicating with parents. The troop has a unit leader, an assistant, and a committee of at least three members. The unit holds a meeting where program plans are shared with parents. Volunteer leaders are recruited in advance for the next program year.
- Scoutmaster and six assistants [including leaders of 11-year-old Scouts] have completed basic leader training [Scoutmaster and Assistant, Scoutmaster-specific Training and North Star: Introduction to Outdoor Leadership Skills].
From this list you can see that advancement is just one way to keep score— tracking advancement progress is only one very important component.
It is important to recall that Scout advancement is not an end in itself; rather, it is the sum of Scouting’s other components—planning, membership, program, and leadership, all of which are also listed and measured on each JTE scorecard. Addressing these multiple, interrelated measures of advancement will help units, districts and councils to succeed in achieving positive results in this performance recognition program of the BSA.
Everything done to advance—to earn ranks and other awards and recognition—is designed to educate or to otherwise expand horizons. Our youth learn and develop according to a standard. This is the case from the time a member joins, and then moves through the programs of Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, and Venturing or Sea Scouts.
While the skills a Scout gains through advancement are important, they are not as important as the primary goal of personal growth achieved through participating in a full troop program. Our concern should be for total, well rounded development.
One further note about JTE: remember, it is a journey, not a destination. Like a garden, it needs constant attention if it is to achieve its purpose, the growth of good citizens through Scouting.
Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA.