2012 Advancement Guide Changes

Created: 11:12 PM on Monday, October 31, 2011
Last Update: 11:04 PM on Thursday, January 17, 2013

In early October 2011, a new Advancement Guide was released (see http://www.scoutroom.net/advancements) and is now in effect. There are a few changes that I consider important enough to highlight here:

  1. The definition of 'Active Participation”

  2. The 'Position of 'Responsibility'

  3. Board of review changes

Active Participation

Unit's are now able to define and enforce expectations for what is considered 'active'. The guide has several appropriate caveats (

  1. The unit's expectations must be predefined, or they should not be applied

  2. “Time counted as active need not be consecutive. A boy may piece together any times he has been active and still qualify”.

  3. An alternative test can be applied. A board of review can determine that, though the boy did not meet expectations, he did so  because of “other positive endeavors – in or out of scouting – or to noteworthy circumstances”, and so be considered active. A boy can be considered active if … “a board of review can agree that Scouting values have already taken hold and been exhibited.”

 The participation pattern that I've seen for troops is as follows: aggressive attendance from 5th through 8th grade; high school attendance is substantially less due to band, sports, clubs, studies, and the 3 Gs (all wonderful experiences that we should want our boys to have). Many scouts then put off doing their Eagle project until Junior/Senior year. When they announce their project at a meeting, many wonder aloud: “Who is he? Is he in our Troop?”. I'm now often the one to testify that, yes, he was very active and contributed much to our troop until high school. The advancement guide has clear advice on this. “ Since we prepare young people to go forth, and essentially, make a positive difference in our American society, we judge that a member is “active” when his level of activity in Scouting, whether high or minimal, has had a sufficiently positive influence toward this end.”(

With over 10 years as Scoutmaster/ASM for a large troop (currently 120 scouts), I recall only 1 boy making Eagle with minimal attendance. His parents' attitude was such that if the troop had written expectations, he would have met them, but only just. The rest of the 80 or so Eagles were very active for the first 4 years, and less so later. Most had over 50 camping nights, many had 100 nights.

I know some units had participation requirements in the past, and continue to have them. Of course, such requirements previously violated the rule that says that units cannot add requirements for advancement (see In my opinion, mandating attendance at meetings or camp outs will achieve just that, but not necessarily much more. If required to get to Eagle, scouts will attend … but they may well be sullen and reluctant. 

If you plan to set 'active participation' expectations for your unit, here's my advice:

  1. Put the expectations in writing, make them publicly available, and do NOT apply them retroactively.

  2. Allow participation that is not consecutive.

  3. Clarify that the “active participation” applies only for the duration as specified for the rank advancement (e.g. 4 months for Star, 6 months for Life).

  4. Please do not get the 'gotcha' mentality (where you eagerly wait for someone to violate a rule, then nail them). Please keep the overall goal in mind, and work flexibly to achieve it.

Personally, I don't plan to have written “Active Participation” expectations for our Troop.  Tthe boys are required to have leadership for the same amount of time (e.g. four months for Star), and that's enough … particularly since I don't believe we have a problem to solve.  See the next section for why I think that's enough.

 Positions of Responsibility

 Scout units now have the authority to create and enforce unit specific leadership expectations. As the guide says “Holding a position and doing nothing, producing no results, is unacceptable”( Since 'boy led' is a goal for every unit, expecting boys to actually perform in leadership is critical to the success of the Scout Unit.

I personally believe it's great to have leadership expectations, and have had them in our troop for years now (google TroopWise for advice). I want the boys to know what their responsibilities are in advance, and to have a reference to guide them. If the boy is not performing, it should be clear to the boy as well as unit leaders. 

My thoughts on Positions of Responsibility:

  1. Positions must be chosen from those listed for the rank advancement(

  2. Boys can accumulate credit from a number of positions, so long as total service is sufficient. “Holding simultaneous positions does not shorten the required number of months” (

  3. Have clearly defined expectations for every leadership position( Distribute and publicize these expectations (TroopWise).

  4. Give mid term performance reviews (from SPL/ASPL/SM) to keep your leaders on track.

  5. Give several warnings to leaders with sub par performance, and coach them towards success.

  6. It should never be a surprise when someone does not get credit for leadership. Never wait until the end of the leadership term to notify someone they will not get credit.

  7. Be flexible in allowing credit for leadership, remembering that your unit needs junior leaders.

Board of Review

There were a few interesting clarifications added:

  1. Scoutmasters do NOT have authority to expect a boy to request a board of review, or to “defer” him, or to ask him to perform beyond requirements in order to be granted a board of review (

  2. The guide now states that it is preferred a scout be in full field uniform for any board of review. It may be the uniform “as the members of his (unit) wear it”. “If wearing all or part of the uniform is impractical for whatever reason, the candidate should be clean and neat in his appearance and dressed appropriately”. “Regardless of unit expectations or rules, boards of review many not reject candidates dressed to this description; neither may they require the purchase of uniforming, or clothing such as coats or ties.” (

  3. Scoutmasters may attend boards. “It may help if the unit leader introduces the candidate, and if a few minutes are spent getting acquainted. The unit leader may remain in the room, but only to observe, not to participate unless called upon. (

  4. Board Members must agree unanimously to approve. (


Jim Brisson



  1. Sewing on Boy Scout Patches Mon, Nov 07, 2011

  2. Clean Backpacking Fri, Aug 31, 2012

  3. 2012 Advancement Guide Changes Thu, Jan 17, 2013

  4. Homesickness Sun, Sep 01, 2013

  5. Same Age vs Mixed Age Patrols Fri, Nov 08, 2013

  6. Boy Led Sat, Nov 09, 2013