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How to measure a Scout’s participation for BSA requirements

To earn each of Boy Scouting’s top three ranks — Star, Life, Eagle — a Scout must “be active” in his troop and patrol for a specified number of months and “serve actively” in a position of responsibility such as patrol leader or quartermaster. So what exactly does “active” mean and how can troop leaders measure participation? Read on to find out. 

WHY IS ACTIVE PARTICIPATION IMPORTANT? Scouts best achieve the aims of Scouting (character development, citizenship training, and personal and mental fitness) when they participate in meetings, outings, and service projects, and hold positions of responsibility.

WHAT CONSTITUTES ACTIVE PARTICIPATION? To meet the requirement of active participation, a Scout must be registered in the unit and be in good standing, meaning he hasn’t been dismissed for disciplinary reasons. In addition, he’s expected to meet the unit’s “reasonable expectations.”

CAN A TROOP SET A STANDARD SUCH AS ATTENDANCE AT 50 PERCENT OF MEETINGS AND OUTINGS? Yes, so long as the standard is reasonable and recognizes the many worthwhile opportunities beyond Scouting. A Scout who falls short of the unit’s expectations must be given the chance to offer an acceptable explanation. Certainly there are medical, educational, family, and other issues that may prevent higher levels of participation. If the Scout would have been more active if he could have been, then he is deemed active. A board of review must also provide the Scout an opportunity to demonstrate how non-Scouting activities have contributed to his growth. (However, this option is only available if the board of review members can agree that the young man has already exhibited Scouting values.) For example, he might have missed a campout to attend a church youth retreat. Remember, the advancement program isn’t about what a Scout has done; it’s about what he’s able to do and how he has grown.

CAN STANDARDS GO BEYOND PARTICIPATION? No. Expectations such as uniform compliance, payment of dues, and parental involvement can’t be considered when evaluating the “active” requirement.

DO MONTHS OF ACTIVE PARTICIPATION HAVE TO BE CONTINUOUS? No. A Scout may piece together any periods he has been active and still qualify. And his active months don’t expire if they are followed by inactive months.

CAN A TROOP SET PERFORMANCE STANDARDS FOR POSITIONS OF RESPONSIBILITY? Yes, so long as they are established up front. It’s a disservice to the Scout and the unit to reward work that hasn’t been done. Holding a position and doing nothing is unacceptable.

WHAT IF A JUNIOR LEADER IS NOT MEETING EXPECTATIONS? The Scout’s leaders should offer him direction, coaching, and support. If nothing will improve his performance, it’s acceptable to remove him from his position. However, it’s unfair to surprise him by telling him at the end of his term that his performance has been unsatisfactory and doesn’t count.

HOW DO YOU EVALUATE A SCOUT WHEN THE UNIT HAS NO ESTABLISHED EXPECTATIONS? If there are no clearly established expectations, then an adult leader or the Scout—or both—should work out the responsibilities to fulfill. BSA literature such as the Patrol Leader Handbook can provide the basis for this effort. If it’s left to the Scout to determine the responsibilities, and he makes a reasonable effort to act accordingly, then he passes the requirement. He cannot be held to unestablished expectations.

CAN MORE THAN ONE POSITION COUNT TOWARD A SINGLE RANK? Yes. The Scout may hold any number of positions. However, holding positions simultaneously doesn’t reduce the number of months required. And service in positions of responsibility doesn’t have to be continuous.

WHERE CAN I LEARN MORE? The best source is the Guide to Advancement 2013 (No. 33088), which is also available at Scout Shops.