Help make the 2015 Journey to Excellence scorecards even better

jte-goldHow do you know whether your unit offers the best possible experience for the Scouts and Venturers you serve?

You keep score.

Scouting’s Journey to Excellence (JTE) gives you specific, measurable ways to track success based on a number of key factors like camping, service, advancement, training and retention.

Those packs, troops, crews, ships, teams and posts that really shine earn either bronze, silver or gold JTE status for the year. Those that don’t learn from other units and benefit from an early warning system that gives them plenty of time to make corrections.

But just like no Scout unit can improve by standing still, the JTE scorecards themselves are under constant assessment and reinvention.

That process is underway now for standards at the unit, district and council levels for the 2015 versions of the scorecards, and you can have your say.

Any leader or Scout who wants to make a suggestion about the JTE scorecards should email Do so soon because the review group of national, council and unit-level leaders will be meeting next week.

Neil Lupton is a member of the National Mission Impact Support Committee, which is responsible for the Journey to Excellence. Lupton shared the guidelines the review group will use in considering changes:

How JTE changes will be considered

  1. By and large, Journey to Excellence is well received and is considered to be measuring the correct factors, which represent what Scouting should be doing. Major changes are unlikely.
  2. Gold status represents Outstanding Scouting; Silver is Excellent Scouting and Bronze is satisfactory Scouting. It is not expected nor realistic that Gold will be achieved across the board at any level. Achieving overall Gold requires solid performance in most key areas but can represent a deficiency in one or two areas and that’s OK. No one is perfect, nor is expected to be. At the council level, the plan has been that 10% of councils will achieve Gold, another 40% will achieve Silver and another 30% will achieve Bronze which would mean that 20% achieve no color recognition.
  3. There have been critiques that Journey to Excellence is too complicated with too many “moving parts.” There are some criteria which might be made more accurate but that could require additional complexity. When there is a suggestion to add something, the review group asks “what should we then take out?” Normally, the answer has been that everything already in there is of high priority.
  4. Ideally, at every level, Journey to Excellence factors are things that should be known anyway. A unit really should know how many of its youth advanced during the year. A Council should have recorded how many of its youth went long-term camping during the year. Documenting Journey to Ex­cel­lence performance should simply involve inputting what is already known.
  5. The Journey to Excellence standards should be a best planning guide and review guide during the year. If a unit, or District, or Council plans to achieve high standards in Journey to Excellence, sets out a good plan, and reviews that plan frequently during the year to make adjustments, the result should be both high level Journey to Excellence achievement and providing great Scouting to youth.
  6. Continuous improvement is part of the Journey to Excellence process. That’s why most standards have both the determined standard (we’re doing well) and an improvement standard (we made a significant improvement.) Continuous improvement is part of the standard setting process too. We try each year to make things a bit better. Hopefully, each of us does a bit better each year. It’s very possible that the same performance that earned Gold last year would only earn Silver this year. We hope for improvement.
  7. Like everything else in Scouting, Journey to Excellence should be fun. It should be fun to plan to get better, then to do it and then to be recognized for it.

Please send in your suggestions to Every suggestion will be read carefully and considered. If it isn’t put in this year, then maybe next year.

53 thoughts on “Help make the 2015 Journey to Excellence scorecards even better

  1. If “First in a year” is still a desired goal, and a boy can advance from First to Life 10 months, then the JTE should reflect that the Unit, District and Council are doing their jobs to enable advancement, instead of only granting credit for One Advancement per boy per year.

    • I agree w/ Eagle Ray CA . We encourage scouts in our troop to aim for 1st class in a year…we find that if they do that, there is a much higher probability that they will stay until Eagle…this pans out, because in 2012 we had 11 Eagles, 2013 8 Eagles, and 4 already this year.

      However, this clearly impacts the Advancement measurement…our new scouts advance 3 ranks, but the troop only gets credit for 1 advancement. Additionally, down the road, there are less ranks available to be counted, because they have been done in a previous year. And Eagle palms do not count toward the advancement goals.

      We have a large troop [this year, 65+ boys in 4 patrols]. Because of variations in recruiting over the years, and because we don’t have specific feeder packs, we draw from a variety of packs, with yearly varying success. In 2008 we had a great recruiting year (25+). As a result, we have right now 55% of the boys are ages 15, 16, and 17, so we struggle to get bronze in the advancement catagory, even though one of the things the troop emphasizes is completing advancement.

      Another area is unclear – Courts of Honor. We have 3 scheduled ones, but also a variable number of additional ones that are Eagle-specific. Can those be counted in the COH criteria? They are held with numerous families attending, and announcements and a scoutmaster minute are included.

      I will be sure to, as suggested, to share this with

    • We found quite the opposite. The “Fist Class First Year” boys were first to quit. First to try to get merit badge councilors to “hurry up” and sign blue cards at the first meeting, first to make Eagle and leave the troop.

      We encourage our boys to become first class scouts (the concept not the patch). If a boy feels that. although he could squeak by if he crammed, he hasn’t mastered a skill, no worries. The first class scout takes the years he needs (and yes, about half of ours need multiple years) to be sure he has mastered that one last requirement.

      This gives us boys who are prepared for adventure, happy to serve (not just for earning the next rank), taking merit badges for the fun of it, leading the troop/crew (not just filling POR’s). Staying until they are 18. Coming back when they are young adults WHETHER THEY EAGLED OR NOT!!!!

      Yes, I would give “Gold” under the advancement category to any troop who has abandoned all notions of “First Class First Year”.

      • The reason for suggesting that Scouts become 1st class in 12 – 18 months is because the advancement requirements towards 1st class is your basic camping skills. One major reason for frustration inside any team (and subsequent quitting that team) is lack of skills to fully participate. We all owe getting our new Scouts up to speed.

        • Don’t get me wrong. I think chances to learn and master all of the 1st class skills should be part of a troop’s yearly program. And if you have a bunch of boys who dig in and really master those skills, your comfort level with them hiking and camping independently is elevated.

          But, a lot of what I saw was one boy who can barely dog-paddle to eek past that swim test, another who only knew how to tie a knot the day he learned it, another who really doesn’t know what you’re referring to when you say 1st Amendment, etc ….

          All of those little ‘skate by’ results add up to boys with patches that say “First Class” who nobody trusts for 24 hours on their own. I would rather those same boys have 2nd Class at age 15 and know exactly which requirements they haven’t mastered. They will at least know their limitations before stepping out into the wide world.

        • Q – Skate buy results is not what advancement is suppose to be. I realize that different troops may be better or worse (but that goes beyond advancement and into program.) As far as advancement is concerned, your not suppose to let them just barely skate buy. Let me quote the Guide to Advancement, the BSA advancement policy book on this matter, “Experiential learning is the key: Exciting and meaningful activities are offered, and education happens. Learning comes from doing. For example, youth may read about first aid, hear it discussed, and watch others administer it,but they will not learn it until they practice it. Rushing a Scout through requirements to obtain a badge is not the goal. Advancement should be a natural outcome of a well-rounded unit program, rich in opportunities to work toward the ranks.”

          And it goes on to say, (because so may people think advancement is an end of all learning in Scouting,)

          “It is important to note, as with any educational opportunity,a rank or award is not the end of the learning process. In Scouting, after a requirement has been passed, the Scout is placed in practical situations that build retention through repeated use of skills. For example, he plays games that feature the skills, teaches other Scouts, and perhaps practices them in “real-life” outdoor experiences.A well-rounded and strong unit program takes advantage of these kinds of opportunities, using them to improve retention through practical application.”

          All this and more can be found in Chapter 2 of the Guide to Advancement

        • I didn’t understand the goal of First…First until I took some time to review the program as a whole. I agree with Bill Nelson. While pushing a Scout too hard isn’t good, and knowing they can learn the skills without ever advancing, we do encourage First Class in a year (or so).

        • “Skate buy results is not what advancement is suppose to be.” So here is where the BSA went wrong. In the days in which they had record retention, Scouts commonly had to wait 2-3-4-5-6-6 months in order to get their next rank.

          There were skill awards, and merit badges. One was for basics the other was for proficiency. Now compile that with untrained Scoutmasters, and folks taking things too literal or adding requirements because they believe the “scout” does not learn anything, and you have today’s book where it has to be spelled out.

          Now, since 1994, the requirements no longer represent the unique aspects of Scouting. Which is a shame, because in order to get your first class – you had to know First Aid. Methods to Communicate. Citizenship. Service. Today – it is merit badge mills and sympathetic merit badge counselors signing off on requirements that the scouts never completed.

          The solution is not training, as the training is so weak that it is like putting a feather in a Scoutmaster cap, and then we tick off the seasoned Scoutmaster by calling him the problem. Telling the unit that these are the requirements – and changing them every year – drives them further from the goal of having a quality unit.

          Eventually my Troop and Crew will not strive for the awards.

      • First Class year in a year is intended to be an effect, not a cause. In other words, the idea is that the Troop’s program is so active and so good that the Scout completes all the requirements in a year to go to First Class Scout just by being an active Scout in the Troop. On the other hand, if advancement becomes the be all and end all root cause, there’s a problem. If, for example, a Scout completing a 100 yard swimming test is saying to himself ” 98, 99, 100 yards. OK, time to run over and pass fire building” then something is seriously out of balance.

        • Neil,
          Many leaders are so new they don’t know what to do. Giving them a goal encourages them to build program. So it works as a goal as well.

          I agree advancement (even becoming Eagle) really isn’t the goal of Scouting. You won’t see it in our aims. That isn’t why we exist or spend so many hours working in the movement.

    • Let me restate this in very practical, albeit subjective, terms.

      If you would be fine with each 12-year-old who wore a 1st class coming up to you with a plan to take his buddies hiking and camping next weekend, then your program is great. (I personally believe this is possible, but extremely rare.)

      If maybe only 1 in every 8 of your boys with a 1st class patch is fit to take his buddies hiking and camping on his own, your program is bogus. Your “First .. First” program is probably driving you to inflate your boys’ actual rank. It might be better if a few of those boys never got beyond Tenderfoot or Second Class.

  2. How about integrating it with recharter, and have the recognition (patches/standard ribbon/etc) come back to the unit with the Charter Certificate and ID cards? Nothing more frustrating than going thru the process, turning in a JTE Gold form for the unit, and then not hearing anything further about it from anybody and not getting recognition for the unit. Soured me on the whole thing, and my pack probably will not participate again unless it becomes mandatory.

    • I made Eagle in 1 year after getting started on advancement. To be honest, there were a few merit badges that I “obtained” rather than “earned.” Although it has been half a Century, I still regret not having earned those badges.

    • Chris, I do apologize that you sent in your JtE materials and heard nothing. You deserve much better than that. However, while the requirements and guidelines are set Nationally, administration is local. I would suggest that you let your local District and Council Commissioners and other leaders know how disappointed you are. All we can do Nationally is try to reinforce the importance of responsiveness to leaders like you. Which we will do.
      I apologize again for your not hearing anything, Chris. The materials absolutely should have come back with your Charter and ID cards. That is how things are supposed to be done.

    • We have to go to Roundtable to pick up our JTE ribbon. We can’t always make it so we usually end up having to ask the District rep to get us a ribbon. I agree that the ribbon should come with your rechartering certificate.

      • Our units don’t even get their charter unless they go to RT. So as an ADC I make sure that my UCs get the charters and the ribbons in their hands and present them at a pack meeting. I am dogged about getting those ribbons to the units.

  3. As the article states, many items are already recorded somewhere. So, shouldn’t JTE simply be integrated into the myscouting tools so that advancements, long-term camp, volunteer hours, etc. simply already be there instead of all the duplicative efforts?

    • Agree! From the Pack side, most of the base line data is there at Council (whether it is easy for Council to report it is probably a different matter), however instead of that baseline information being proactively emailed/shared we had to request it. Your mileage may vary.

    • We are working on that, Scott. As you can imagine, the BSA’s IT system is somewhat complex. Given time, we hope that the integration will be done but it’s not there yet and may not be for awhile.

  4. As the article points out, most of the data is already known to the unit. However, calculating the PERCENTAGE of boys who did those things is sometimes difficult.

    The roster is a moving target. Boys join, age out, reach Eagle or quit all throughout the year without regard to JTE categories. Figuring out who “counts” in each possible scenario can take some work, and we’re not even a very big troop.

    Last summer we had six (out of about 36) boys reach Eagle. Our charter year starts Feb 1, so those boys (1/6 of the troop) aren’t eligible for the advancement category this year. Since Feb 1, we’ve already had three boys (1/12 the troop) age out, with another at the end of June. Two more will age out before our charter year ends. We had one boy join the troop in February, three Webelos bridge in May, and another boy will be joining next week. We have 23 boys currently signed up for summer camp (long term camping) in July. We’ll probably have one or two boys join the troop when school starts.

    So, who “counts” for JTE? (They all count for me; I’m the Scoutmaster.)

    • Tim, this is what is printed on the scorecard: “Total number of Boy Scouts advancing at least one rank (Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle) since your last charter renewal date (A), divided by the number of boys you started your charter renewal year with (B1) plus all new boys who joined or transferred into the troop at any time during the current year (B2). Advancement = A / (B1 + B2).”

    • This is part of the reason that things get complex. We are trying to have measurements that are simple but meaningful but Scouts moving in and out make things complex. The answer is that for advancement, any Scout who is a member of the Troop for any reasonable part of the year is eligible to advance. (We know that Eagles can’t advance. That’s part of the reason that Gold in advancement requires only 50% of the Troop to advance one rank.) But for retention, which I think that we all believe is important, Scouts who age out are not eligible to reregister and so should not be counted.
      There is a calculation spreadsheet available for download on the National jtE website that had your Troop data as inputs and will do the calculations for you. But debugging these spreadsheets and taking into account all the “what ifs” drives us crazy. If you find an error in the spreadsheet, please let us know and we’ll try to fix it.

  5. What is sad is that Having an Eagle Scout in your troop who earned that award last year actually hurts your advancement percentages. Why is not a palm for an eagle able to count as a rank advancement?

      • I will indeed do that. Another thing is that in last year’s JTE, Scouts that transfered to another unit do not affect your retention numbers, but it does hurt your advancement percentages. That seems to be wrong also.

        • Neil can you share insight or reasoning on this particular situation. Also I responded down below on the Eagle Palms question.

      • That’s exactly right, Bryan. Thank you. Eagle palms were originally going to be part of the advancement standard but were taken out for 2 reasons:
        1) Eagle palms are not considered to be a rank and not considered to be an advancement
        2) Eagle palms have not been tracked in the way that Scouting ranks are.

        A recent blog post here was, I believe, the first effort that I have seen to count Eagle palms and I believe the numbers were that although over 57,000 Scouts earned the Eagle Award last year, only about 5700 total palms were earned so fewer than 1 Eagle Scout in 10 earned any kind of palm. So they’re really not that common a thing.

        Also, Gold in a Troop requires only 50% of the Scouts to advance one rank. Non-advancement beyond Eagle Scout is one of the reasons. If a Troop has so many Eagle Scouts that it is having trouble meeting the Gold advancement standard of 50%, it should absolutely blow the doors off some of the other standards like camping, service, leadership, etc.

        JtE is a balance. No unit is expected to be Gold everywhere and overall Gold does not require Gold in all criteria.

        • I half agree with you Neil, but we are stuck in the trenches with boys who want to be a “perfect” troop. I can imagine some SM with a dozen well deserving 14 year old Eagles who hike and camp independently, recruit crossovers, and blow away every other metric getting really bent out of shape about this.

          “Mr. SM, why should we get the same rating in the advancement as troop x whose Eagles earned no MBs this year? We deserve gold they deserve silver!”

          It’s just goofy to call something advancement on one page and not the other.

    • the old system of Quality Unit the Boy who had an Eagle counted each year as one boy advancing, so it benefited to hold on to your Eagle.

      • Since Neil Lupton is a part of this National Task Force I strongely suggest that you re-visit and allow that palms be considered an advancement. This would be a perfect time since next year the scout badge will be considered a Rank Advancement.

        • Thank you for suggestion, Bill. In this area, the JtE review group is responding to the National Advancement group, as we do in many areas such as camping, membership, Commissioners, etc. where there is a National Committee which has responsibility. It was the National Advancement group that told our group that Eagle Palms should not be considered an advancement. We will certainly (again) pass on the recommendation that Eagle Palms should be considered an advancement. But ultimately, the volunteers on that committee are the ones who decide what is, and what is not, an advancement.

  6. “Ideally, at every level, Journey to Excellence factors are things that should be known anyway. A unit really should know how many of its youth advanced during the year. A Council should have recorded how many of its youth went long-term camping during the year. Documenting Journey to Ex­cel­lence performance should simply involve inputting what is already known.” — Please empower the volunteers at the District and Council levels (at a minimum) to input this data. When we operate in a volunteer-led, professionally-guided manner, we are all prepared to succeed!

  7. I replied back as requested, but felt a note to the community at large was warranted.
    In their “How changes will be considered”, they came right out and said they weren’t accepting ideas suggesting they obtain for themselves some of the metrics already available to them. Instead, since “we should already know them”, they believe it to be no big deal to write them down… I disagree.
    We’re a highly functional troop. Nearly all boys have advanced multiple ranks per year. We’ve doubled our size in the last two years. Our leaders are trained, and where they aren’t, we already know it.
    Now why do I need to look up exact metrics when all that data is in their systems?

  8. 2 Requirements I would like to see added, are Commissioner Visits (making sure the they are getting visited) as well as Roundtable Attendance. I think participation with both of these, especially at the Cub Scout Level – would help dramatically improve the Experience each boy has.

    • Because Unit Commissioners are district-level appointments and supervised by the District Commissioner, commissioner visits is, properly, a factor which is counted toward District and Council JtE. It wouldn’t be fair to judge a unit on a criterion which isn’t within their control. Roundtable attendance would be an interesting factor to include, perhaps as part of the training requirement.

      • Roundtable? There has got to be a better way than having to allocate yet another evening. It’s one night a week for our Troop meetings, one night a month for PLC, one weekend a month for outings, paperwork at home… Most things happening at RoundTable could well be done on-line and through other digital channels. One good example: flyers and brochures handed out at roundtables.
        I’m all for the social aspect, and perhaps a quarterly in-person meeting with deliberate social interaction and a full agenda might be a good balance.

  9. JTE is designed as a metric for the Councils and National Office. In many cases the areas of evaluation are intended to expand scouting’s population. Many times all it does it make work for unit leaders, UCs and District Staff. I have seen Gold units that really didn’t embody the true nature of scouting while units that didn’t qualify show growth and had solid units.

    Those of us who have experience in designing metrics know that its easy to see why the metric is in place. In the case of JTE its about FOS, and unit growth.

    • When I was in the corporate world, toward the end of my career, at a company that was often the target of a Dilbert cartoon, somewhat due to its proximity to the workplace of the cartoonist, and even before, we worried a lot about some of the metrics. Ofter very meaningless ones were highlighted.

      We need to look at what really shows whether the program really is working. Some of these metrics really are important (trained leaders, number of campouts, boy participation in unit planning and budget.) Some are implemented in an awkward manner (advancement, recruiting, retention).

      What we need to remember is that the purpose is to develop a better program for the boys – better outdoor skills, more responsibility and accountability, better knowledge of our society and ho it should run, better service and community involvement.

      Perhaps they should look to each council putting together a group of volunteers [i.e., not professionals ] to recommend metrics which are easy to obtain for everyone at unit level. These volunteers need to be then brought together (AT BSA EXPENSE) to work with others in that region to mold these into usable form, then reps of Regions ( volunteers [i.e., not professionals ]) prepare the national JTE for that level. It would take some time, but then would not be something designed by people away from the nuts and bolts of actually acquiring the data.

      • Hello Carey,

        Your suggested approach is very largely what is done. Suggestions are collected all year, together with data on what is happening and what is not happening. Possible changes and modifications are considered. Then there are two conference calls which are held. The Unit level requirements are considered by unit level leaders from all over the country. The District and Council level requirements, similarly, are considered by district and council level leaders from all over the country.

        Originally, the development of Journey to Excellence was done exactly as you suggest. There was a National task force of combined pros and volunteers which considered what correlated well with good Scouting and then the effort was made to refine that into a system which would be as straightforward as possible yet would motivate leaders at all levels to perform and improve and then to recognize them when they do so.

        You use the term “awkward” to describe some of the criteria and in some ways, I really can’t disagree. But the nature of Scouting (kids in, kids out, parents in, parents out, many levels of operation) makes simplicity a real challenge to achieve. On our developmental task force, we had one member who kept pounding the table saying “One page, one page!” And we completely agreed with him.

        If you have suggestions on how to make things less awkward, or even why you believe they are awkward, we very much appreciate hearing them.

        One of the great challenges in writing any kind of Scouting requirements is that they need to be simple enough for users to understand, yet carefully enough crafted that when the potential users ask themselves “How can I get maximum result with minimum work?” the users need to actually do good Scouting to achieve their desired reward. In other words, we ask how someone would try to get the reward without doing the intended activities and also how someone might actually do the activities yet not get the reward and then plug the holes where possible. But trying to fix everything can make things much more complex. So some of the holes have to be left in.

        We very much appreciate Bryan putting this in his blog and appreciate very much all of the comments and suggestions on how JtE might be improved. We can’t do everything and may not even be able to do most things. But we do try.

  10. Given a well-prepared and active, interesting program in the troop, an active – and motivated – Scout can achieve First Class in the first year. I have seen it happen many times. The key phrase being the Scout is motivated. Even the best program cannot assure a Scout earns his First Class if he doesn’t apply himself and fully participate. You can’t MAKE a Scout advance.

    At the other end of the advancement scale, we have our first Eagle Scout in the 45 years of our troop who is still young enough to earn Palms, and I agree that should account for some credit on the JTE score sheet.

    We did end up achieving gold status on JTE this past year due to a full slate of trained leaders, a full and active program, a healthy increase in new Scouts and many rank advancements. Any unit can achieve JTE status but it is a complete package – it requires effort on the part of the Scouts as well as the adult leadership to make it happen.

    • Page 2 of the Troop Scorecard, “Total number of Boy Scouts advancing at least one rank (Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, Eagle) since your last charter renewal date (A), divided by the number of boys you started your charter renewal year with (B1) plus all new boys who joined or transferred into the troop at any time during the current year (B2). Advancement = A / (B1 + B2).”

      • I do know that I had read it a year or so ago and it specifically said that palms did not count. I am going to try and find it and post it here.

      • That may be where the form is Q, but that doesn’t make Palms a rank. Ranks are so titled, and currently there are 6 of them: Tenderfoot Rank, Second Class Rank, First Class Rank, Star Rank, Life Rank, and Eagle Rank. The Scout Badge is a badge, not a rank and Palms are indications of tenure, leadership service and additional merit badges earned over Eagle.

      • I’m just a tired old scouter who confuses easily. 😦
        It’s just our Eagles rarely work on palms, I would think more highly of a troop whose Eagles do keep on advancing in leadership, service, and learning.

        Sure, you’d like to think that such boys are adding to the life of the troop in other ways. But why be so obtuse. If we want boys sticking around earning palms, it would be nice to recognize it.

  11. Have to say that is easier to read, understand, determine and calculate then the data entry page that was created to make it easier.

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