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How does rank advancement work specifically in Troop 794?

The rank advancement process in our Troop proceeds as follows:

  1. The Scout learns the skill described in the requirement.
  2. The Scout demonstrates the skill as described, and at the time of accomplishment has it signed off in his book by an authorized individual.
  3. After all requirements for a rank have been satisfied, and a parent has signed off on the Scout Spirit requirement to the left of the sign-off block; the Scout must make an appointment for a Scoutmaster Conference with the Scoutmaster or an Assistant Scoutmaster for Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class ranks; or with the Scoutmaster for Star, Life and Eagle ranks
  4. The Scout prepares for his Scoutmaster Conference.
  5. Upon successful completion of his Scoutmaster conference, the Scout notifies the designated person on the Advancement Committee, and requests to be scheduled for a Board of Review, normally scheduled during the regular Thursday meetings. Listen for announcements during Scout Circle or check Troop communications for specific dates. He will need to make 2 copies of the completed rank page(s). One will be given to the designated person on the Advancement Committee, and one is for the Scout’s off-site file (please write the Scout’s name and phone number on each copy).
  6. After successfully completing the Board of Review and having the Board members sign off in his Scout Handbook, the Scout will need to make 2 copies of the completed rank page(s). One will be given to the designated person on the Advancement Committee, and one is for the Scout’s off-site file (please write the Scout’s name and phone number on each copy). He will be recognized at the next Troop meeting, where he receives his new emblem of rank.
  7. At the next scheduled Court of Honor, the Scout is again recognized with his parents, and publicly receives his rank card and Mother’s pin, along with any merit badges earned.

How does Boy Scouts differ from Cub Scouts and Webelos?

Cub Scouts and Webelos are activity oriented, with the Scouts often completing activities in a group setting at their meetings. Boy Scouts is geared more towards individual effort and personal initiative, and while encouragement to demonstrate such initiative is desirable, we strongly discourage adult efforts to push Scouts through the ranks. Unlike the short time frame of Webelos, the Boy Scout experience can last 7 years, and it is perfectly normal for Scouts to advance at very different paces. Desire, initiative, and self-discipline are qualities we want them to develop and it is important adults not short-circuit this growth by continuing with a Den Leader mentality. Rather than completing activities, as Webelos did, Boy Scouts acquire life-long skills through fulfilling rank requirements. A rank does not simply represent what a Scout has done, but rather what he is capable of doing. He should be able to demonstrate or teach any of his early rank skills as a senior Scout. This is a crucial difference between Webelos and Boy Scouts, and highlights why Scouts must be individually evaluated for advancement. Requirements are normally not taught and signed off in a classroom-style setting at the weekly meetings. Each Scout must learn to read and understand the requirements for each rank; plan how, when, and where he’ll complete those requirements; ask adult leaders or senior Scouts to teach him skills if necessary; practice the skills; then arrange for an adult leader or senior Scout to watch him perform the skill and sign it off in the back of his book. Some of these skills must be completed at campouts and will require planning by the Scout ahead of time.

What records does the Scout need to keep?

The Scout is responsible for keeping his own set of records documenting his advancement progress. This includes the Boy Scout Handbook with rank sign-offs, merit badge blue cards in-process, privilege cards like the Tote ‘n Chip, completed merit badge and rank cards, and a list of Scout outings and activities in which the Scout has participated. Scouts should get requirements signed off contemporaneously with meeting the requirement, and by an authorized sign-off person who saw him fulfill the requirement. (Proxy sign-offs are very strongly discouraged.) Scouts should not ask a senior Scout to sign off a requirement unless that senior Scout saw him fulfill the requirement, (even if another Scout vouches for him.) Getting the sign-off at the time the skill has been demonstrated is important. If a Scout comes up to an Adult for a sign-off four months after the fact, the person signing off may no longer remember it.

If a Scout loses his handbook and has no back-up documentation, he may have to re-do any requirements which have been signed off, but for which he has not yet been awarded the rank. For this reason, it is highly recommended that Scouts periodically make legible photocopies of their rank advancement pages and keep them in a safe place. Also, the Scout should be sure to write his name and phone number inside his Boy Scout Handbook, or along the edge of the pages! Scouts might store their rank advancement cards and merit badge presentation cards from Courts of Honor in a baseball card protective sleeve. Adult advancement leaders maintain computer records for each Scout’s advancement progress. This includes contact information, leadership credit, ranks completed, and merit badges earned. However, since computers can crash and data can be lost, it is important for each Scout to maintain his own evidence of advancement as well.

It is important to understand that it is the Scout’s responsibility to submit paperwork to an Advancement Committee person in order to advance. New members who have just earned the rank of “Scout”, which does not require a Board of Review, sometimes overlook this. Our advancement leaders are not omniscient (!) and cannot know a Scout has earned the rank or recognize him until notified, and supplied with a copy of the completed rank page.

I transferred into Troop 794. How do I get my records into the system?

Scouts transferring into the Troop need to supply Troop 794’s Advancement Committee with a copy of all their Boy Scout Handbook rank advancement pages, along with an “Individual Transfer/History Report” signed by the Advancement Chairman or Scoutmaster of the originating Troop. This is necessary to validate the Scout’s past work, both in rank and merit badges, and to allow us to get this information into our Troop’s database. Failure to supply this information in a timely manner may slow down the Scout’s advancement.

What happens in a Scoutmaster Conference, and how do I prepare for it?

The Scoutmaster Conference is an opportunity for the Scoutmaster and Assistant Scoutmasters to get to know the Scouts a little better individually and to find out their perceptions of Scouting, the Troop, and of what they are learning. The Scout’s goals might be an item of discussion, feedback on the Scout’s patrol and Troop experiences, along with his advancement progress, may be as well. In a Troop as large as ours, it is not possible for the Scoutmaster to perform all Scoutmaster conferences personally, so Assistant Scoutmasters often assist with ranks up through First Class. Only the Scoutmaster may hold Scoutmaster Conferences for Star, Life, or Eagle ranks. The Scoutmaster Conference is also used to validate whether a Scout has indeed mastered the skills for the ranks he has earned and for the one he is seeking, in order to determine whether he is ready for a Board of Review.

BSA has stated that “a Boy Scout badge recognizes what a young man is able to do; it is not a reward for what he has done.” The retention of past learning is therefore important and is expected. At his Scoutmaster conference, the Scout is responsible for all skills learned and signed off from Scout up through the rank sought. He may be questioned or asked to demonstrate any of these skills to verify that the knowledge is truly his own. If he is rusty on a particular area, he may be asked to review the material and come back later before proceeding. The Scout will not be accountable for specific merit badge requirements in the Scoutmaster Conference or Board of Review, though he may be asked about his experiences in earning a merit badge. The best preparation for a Scoutmaster Conference is for the Scout to think about his experiences in the Troop, and to be sure he can confidently discuss or demonstrate any of the skills listed for each rank he has attained, and for the one he is seeking. He should come to the Scoutmaster Conference in his full, clean Class “A” uniform, including beret and sash, and with his painter (rope), Boy Scout Handbook, and compass.

What happens in a Board of Review, and how do I prepare for one?

The Board of Review is composed of a minimum of three Adults (or two Adults and one Eagle Scout), who are registered members of the Troop. Eagle Scouts may only sit on Tenderfoot and Second Class boards. Neither Scoutmasters nor Assistant Scoutmasters may serve on Boards of Review. In the Board of Review, the purpose is not to retest a scout, but we want to hone in on the deeper issues of Scouting and character, as well as to help the Scouts to develop and employ effective presentation and communication skills. A Scout only has six Boards of Review in his Scouting career up to Eagle, and we want each one to count – contributing both to his growth and encouragement. The three primary purposes of the Board are:

  1. To make sure the Scout has done what he was supposed to do for the rank.
  2. To find out how good an experience the boy is having in his patrol and Troop.
  3. To encourage the Scout to progress further.

The kinds of questions here will center more on the Scout Law and Oath, and the way the Scout is applying the principles of Scouting to his life. This is where the Scout’s earlier discussions with his parents about what the Scout Law and Scout Oath mean will be valuable. Again, the Scout should be sure to attend his Board in full Class “A” uniform, cleaned and pressed, including beret and sash, and with his painter (rope), and Boy Scout Handbook, with the Scoutmaster Conference signed off. He will be presented to the Board, at which point he will salute the Board’s Chairman (usually seated in the center), and stand for uniform inspection until he is asked to take a seat. If his uniform is not complete, the Board may be cancelled. He may also be asked to quote the Scout Oath, Law, Slogan, Motto, or Outdoor Code. When seated, he should be respectful and alert, maintain good posture, not play with his uniform, chew gum, or offer other such distractions. Thoughtful, rather than canned, answers are encouraged. Various members of the Board will take turns asking the Scout questions, and when they are through, the Scout will step into the hall while the Board deliberates. When he is called back into the room, the Scout is informed of the Board’s decision, and if he is awarded the rank, congratulated. If he is not, he will be told the reason why, and where remedial work is needed. The Scout should not feel intimidated in preparing for a Board; he is not going to face a hostile crowd. The Board wants to see the Scout grow and have a good Scouting experience. He should prepare by having a crisp and complete uniform, and by considering his overall experience in Scouting and how he has been applying the principles of Scouting to his daily life.

What happens at a Court of Honor?

This is the special advancement ceremony that Scouts look forward to each quarter, and attend with their parents. While a Scout may have received earlier recognition of rank advancement with a rank patch at a Troop meeting, it is in the Court of Honor that his achievement is highlighted, and he is called up and recognized with his parents. He will be added to the Scout’s Book of Honor for that rank, and with others earning that rank will light a candle and place it on the appropriate rung of our Advancement Ladder. The Scout also receives his rank card and a Mother’s pin to pin on his Mom as part of the ceremony. Merit badges are distributed, we are reminded of the significance of Scouting, and refreshments are served. Even if a Scout is not advancing, he should come to every Court of Honor to encourage other Scouts and to be inspired to move forward. Many important announcements are also shared at Courts of Honor, since that is when most parents are present.

Why the emphasis on “First Class in a Year?”

BSA leaders have found that if a Scout earns the rank of First Class in his first year, he is far more likely to remain in the Scouting program. Those that do not develop momentum by working towards First Class during that time are subject to disinterest and dropping out. By First Class, the Scout has made many of the skills of Scouting – first aid, camping, cooking, survival – his own, resulting in increased confidence and a real engagement in Scouting.

May I advance in rank at Summer Camp?

While you may earn merit badges and satisfy rank requirements at Summer Camp, all Scoutmaster Conferences and Boards of Review will be held in our Troop. (Scoutmaster Conferences and Boards of Review may be conducted within our Troop at Summer Camp only if sufficient adult leadership is present, but the Scout should not count on this.) This allows us to maintain consistency as well as to gather program feedback from Scouts, which is critical to improving the Troop. Scoutmaster Conferences and Boards of Review are scheduled monthly, so a Scout should not have to wait long after returning from camp to complete his rank advancement if he has fulfilled all the requirements.

Who can sign off requirements in my Boy Scout Handbook?

For the ranks of Scout through First Class, authorized Adult leaders or authorized Life or Eagle Scouts may sign off requirements upon the Scout’s satisfactory demonstration of the applicable skill. To be authorized to sign off requirements, the Adult or Life/Eagle Scout must first attend a short advancement training session to be held periodically in the Troop. Those who have attended the session and are authorized will be so noted on the Troop roster for the Scouts’ reference. In order to maintain consistency in our program, we need to be sure everyone is on the same page when evaluating Scouts. Some people may feel comfortable signing off certain requirements and not others. For example, an Adult who does not understand orienteering should not be signing off compass skills for a Scout. In such cases, the Scout should be told to go to a different authorized Adult to demonstrate that skill.

In our Troop, we ask that no one sign off more than three (3) requirements for the same rank for the same Scout. This would mean a single Adult leader or Life/Eagle Scout might sign off up to three of Scout Jim’s Tenderfoot requirements, and up to three for Second Class, but never more than three for any one rank (excluding Scout Spirit and the Scoutmaster Conference). This does two things – it helps insure the integrity of their advancement, and it also helps the Scout get comfortable communicating with different people in the Troop. Dealing with a variety of adults is a necessary life-skill.

For the ranks of Star, Life and Eagle, only authorized Adult leaders, and not senior Scouts, may sign off in the book. Since most of these requirements need to be verified by the Advancement Committee, those Adult leaders in possession of the Scout’s advancement and participation records will usually sign them off.

The Scout should be sure that their rank requirements are signed off in the back (not the front) of the Eleventh edition Boy Scout Handbook (or newer), and that both the complete date (MM/DD/YY) and signer’s legible initials are shown in the spaces provided.

May my parents sign off requirements in my Boy Scout Handbook?

If the parent has attended the required advancement training session and is on the authorized sign-off list, he or she may only sign-off the Scout pamphlet exercise requirement 9., the Tenderfoot 30-day exercise requirement 10a., and the Second Class drug/alcohol awareness program requirement 8. Parents should also initial and date the Scout Spirit requirement to the left of the sign-off box (the final sign-off for Scout Spirit will be made during the Scoutmaster Conference). This allows the Scout to gain the experience of going to others to demonstrate his skills. Parents are certainly encouraged to help the Scout practice and hone his skills in preparation for demonstration, and this affords a great opportunity for the parent and Scout to work together.

What does “Show Scout Spirit” mean, and who signs off that requirement?

One of the Scout’s joining requirements is to understand and agree to live by the Scout Oath or promise, Law, Motto, Slogan, and the Outdoor Code. These are reinforced in the Tenderfoot requirement to repeat from memory and explain in the Scout’s own words the Scout Oath, Law, Motto, and Slogan. For every rank thereafter, the requirement is included to “Demonstrate Scout spirit by living the Scout Oath (Promise) and Scout Law in your everyday life.” This is one of the most important requirements, because it deals with the real fruit of Scouting in the boy’s life, and shows whether character is being developed along with outdoor and survival skills. It should not be taken lightly. Parents are encouraged to memorize the Scout Oath and Law with their sons, and to discuss with them from time to time what each point means. When problems or decisions are faced, challenge the Scout to look at them through the lens of the Scout Law and Oath. Evaluate their behavior at home in light of the Scout Oath and Law, and help them see if it is consistent with the promise they have made. When it comes time for this requirement to be considered for the Scout’s rank advancement, Scouts and parents should use the opportunity to discuss in which areas the Scout has lived consistently by the Scout Oath and Law, and where improvement is needed. While perfection is an unlikely standard, some parents have chosen to temporarily delay the advancement of their Scout based on significant departures from the Scout Oath and Law in their son’s behavior. This sends a strong message in such cases that character does indeed matter. Before the Scout requests a Scoutmaster Conference, the Scout should discuss how he is doing with his parents, and the parents should initial and date the Scout Spirit requirement to the left of the sign-off box, indicating their approval (the final sign-off for Scout Spirit will be made during the Scoutmaster Conference).

How does the thirty days requirement for Tenderfoot (10a & 10b) work?

This requirement is sometimes one of the hardest for a new Scout to actually get started on! At the start of the thirty days, the Scout should be tested on his best effort for every exercise listed under the current results section of requirement 10a. The results should be recorded and initialed by the parent or other authorized adult, with the complete date (MM/DD/YY) in the spaces provided. He must then practice these activities for thirty days (not necessarily consecutive, but for a full thirty days) and then be retested on every exercise. These results should be recorded under the 30 days later section of requirement 10a. Once again, the results should be recorded and initialed by the parent or other authorized adult, with the complete date (MM/DD/YY) in the spaces provided. While he might not show a significant improvement on every single exercise, a clear overall improvement should be apparent in order for this to be signed off.

How do I fulfill the 2nd Class Drug/Alcohol Awareness requirement?

If you do not have a DARE program available at school, this requirement can be met at home through study and subsequent discussion of a thorough published resource on the topic such as the National Drug & Safety League’s Confusions Guide, available free from the Littleton Police Department. The Scoutmaster may also have a copy available for loan. After reading and studying the material, the Scout should demonstrate his understanding of the topic through discussion with his parents or a troop leader (the Scout must be sure to supply the parent or leader with the resource material for discussion purposes when going to get this requirement signed off.)

What counts for the 2nd Class and 1st Class Five and Ten Troop/Patrol Activities rank requirements?

Troop meetings and our regularly scheduled Courts of Honor do not count towards these activity requirements. A Patrol activity held on a different day than the Troop meeting would qualify as an activity, as would participating in a Merit Badge College, helping on an Eagle Project, going on a Troop Campout, going to Summer Camp, attending the annual Scout Show, or going to an optional troop activity like a Good Turn Week activity or an Eagle Scout Court of Honor. (Note that a certain number of these activities must be troop campouts, as listed in the requirement.) While individual merit badge pursuits do not qualify, if a group of Scouts within the troop is working on a Merit Badge together and an outing is required, separate from the regular troop meetings (such as a Counselor-organized Photography Merit Badge outing to take photos in the field as a group) that could count as a Troop/Patrol activity. One time the troop made snowshoes outside the regular meetings at an adult leader’s house, and such an event would also qualify. If you’re not sure whether something not listed here would qualify, ask your Advancement Leader.

Can I work on more than one rank at a time?

A Scout can simultaneously work on requirements for Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class, but the ranks must be earned in order. For example, you may not earn First Class before you finish Second Class. Additionally, as he earns Merit Badges (regardless of his current rank), they will count for the Merit Badge requirements of the higher ranks.

What qualifies as an approved Service Project for rank advancement?

This would be any project approved by the Scoutmaster, which benefits others outside our Troop and outside the BSA. Helping with Eagle projects and their associated fundraisers always qualifies for service time, because others outside the Troop are benefiting. Participating in Good Turn Week activities would also qualify. Selling Scout Popcorn, or other Troop fundraisers would not qualify for service time, neither would helping with maintenance and cleanup of Troop equipment, or shopping for food and supplies for a campout. A patrol service project for the National Honor Patrol Award would count as individual service time for participating Scouts – for example, helping pick up litter or weeding at our sponsoring organization or other non-profit. (The beneficiary of the service may not be a business or individual.) Service time only applies to the rank during which it is served, and cannot be carried forward to a future rank! For example, if a First Class Scout works for 12 hours on another Scout’s Eagle project over a weekend, only the six hours needed for Star rank will count towards service time. He cannot fulfill service time for the rank of Life until he has become a Star Scout. When a block of service time is completed, have an adult or Senior Scout present at the event – note the event, date and hours in the area of the book where the requirement is written (not in the sign-off column, unless all hours for the rank have been satisfied by a single service project). Once all the required hours have been obtained, an adult can verify the qualifying events noted in the book, total the hours, and sign off the requirement itself. The specific service project requirements for the Eagle rank are covered in depth in the materials a Scout receives after earning the rank of Life.

How do I get credit for leadership?

Leadership credit does not apply until the Scout has reached the rank of First Class. At that rank, four months of approved leadership time will be needed for Star rank, and six months each for Life and Eagle. Approved positions are listed in the rank requirements in the Scout Handbook. A Scout interested in a leadership position should get an application from the Scoutmaster. Leadership credit for a given rank does not begin to accrue until the Scout has attained that rank and has assumed the leadership role. Leadership time served in a previous rank cannot be carried forward to a higher rank. For example, if a First Class Scout serves as Patrol Leader for six months, four months’ leadership credit will apply towards Star rank, but none would apply to Life rank unless he earned Star rank during his term as Patrol Leader. In that case, only the actual time served after reaching Star rank would be credited for the Life rank leadership requirement.

What if I lose my book?

If your book gets misplaced or lost, check the lost and found at Mission Hills Church first and make an announcement at the Scout meetings for at least 3 consecutive weeks. Some other Scout may have your book by mistake or an adult may have picked it up for you. A good way to protect the signatures in the back of your book (the evidence that you have completed various requirements) is to make photocopies of those rank pages periodically, especially after campouts and summer camps where Scouts often get requirements signed off. File those copied pages in a safe place. While waiting for your book to show up, obtain a Scout book from the library and photocopy the rank pages from the back of it, staple them together, and bring that packet to the next place you’ll need requirements signed off. The signed photocopied pages can be brought to Scoutmaster Conferences and Boards of Review. Once the book is recovered, someone in Advancement can transfer and initial these records for you. If your book is not recovered and you have no back-up records, you may be faced with redoing all requirements for ranks not yet attained.

As a parent, how can I help ensure the integrity of Scouts’ advancement?

First, don’t sign things off for your son or for other Scouts too lightly. Remember these are not activity check-offs, but rather a statement of what skills the Scout has made his own and can be relied upon to demonstrate at any time in the future. Bypassing the guidelines only cheats the Scout of the learning he needs, and undermines the Scouting program. If, for example, you sign off a critical swimming requirement using a lax standard, it may later pose a life-threatening situation for the Scout when he is allowed to participate in water activities based on his rank, but for which he is not really qualified as a swimmer. (Talk to one of our Swimming Merit Badge instructors for detailed guidelines on signing off swimming requirements. We periodically have troop pool events for obtaining these, staffed with a qualified person.) In general, don’t sign requirements off beyond your own ability. If you do not have mastery of the skill yourself, you may not be able to ascertain whether the Scout has learned it, and therefore should not sign it off. Some of us have spent a lot of time learning knots and other outdoors skills so we could be a step ahead of the boys!

Secondly, it is critical to understand that the requirements mean exactly what they say. They are not to be interpreted or taken figuratively. For example, First Class requirement 4e says to prepare the breakfast, lunch, and dinner planned in requirement 4a. That doesn’t mean two lunches and a dinner, and it doesn’t mean a different menu than that planned in requirement 4a. Likewise, if it says he must demonstrate folding, raising, and lowering the American flag, he must do exactly those things with a real flag and a flagpole. You don’t watch him fold a sheet of notebook paper into a football or have him describe how he would raise the flag and sign off his book – that is dishonest, because the requirement has not been met. A Scout pledges to be trustworthy, and should never allow someone to sign off a requirement in his book that he has not literally and completely fulfilled. Don’t give your son, or any other Scout, occasion for embarrassment at a Scoutmaster Conference or Board of Review where it might be discovered that certain signed-off requirements were, in fact, not met and must be redone in order to advance.

Thirdly, senior Scouts and adults should avoid signing off in proxy, that is signing off a requirement based solely on the Scout’s or someone else’s say-so. Requirements should be signed off contemporaneously by an authorized individual who personally witnessed the demonstration of the relevant skill.

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