The 2015 Guide to Advancement, your official source for administering advancement in all Boy Scouts of America programs, is now available.
View or download it by clicking here (PDF).
The Guide to Advancement is a critical reference tool for anyone involved in advancement in Cub Scouting, Boy Scouting, Varsity Scouting, Venturing and Sea Scouts.
It's not meant to be read cover to cover. Instead, it's organized and indexed so you can find answers to your advancement questions quickly. I appreciate that the sometimes-complicated topics covered in the Guide are conveyed in plain English.
The Guide to Advancement is updated every two years to reflect changes to programs, requirements and policies. Changes come from a team of national-level professionals and volunteers. Many of the new sections are the result of frequently asked questions that the Advancement team is answering through new policies.
You can find a complete list of significant changes to the Guide in section 126.96.36.199, beginning on Page 7. But I wanted to pick out 13 of the changes I consider the biggest:
1. Merit badge worksheets not allowed for certain requirements
What's new: This language clarifies the official policy on something I've blogged about before: merit badge worksheets. Filling out a worksheet will not be allowed for requirements that use words like "show," "demonstrate" or "discuss."
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "In Boy Scouting, advancement requirements must be passed as written. If, for example, a requirement uses words like 'show,' 'demonstrate,' or 'discuss,' then that is what Scouts must do. Filling out a worksheet, for example, would not suffice"
2. Scoutmaster conferences should be face-to-face, not online
What's new: New language says Scoutmaster conferences should be held face-to-face and not online. That means Skype, which is great for some purposes but not as personal as a face-to-face conversation, is out.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "Scoutmaster conferences are meant to be face-to-face, personal experiences. They relate not only to the Scouting method of advancement, but also to that of 'association with adults' (see topic 188.8.131.52, 'The Methods of Scouting'). Scoutmaster conferences should be held with a level of privacy acceptable under the BSA's rules regarding Youth Protection. Parents and other Scouts within hearing range of the conversation may influence the Scout's participation. For this reason, the conferences should not be held in an online setting."
3. New Cub Scout program now included in the Guide
Sections: Changes throughout the Cub Scout sections, including 184.108.40.206-220.127.116.11
What's new: Lots. Language now reflects the new Cub Scout program that launches on June 1, 2015.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "Den leaders, Cubmasters, and their assistants conduct meetings implementing the three steps in Cub Scout advancement: preparation, qualification, and recognition. Four separate den leader guides - one each for the Tiger, Wolf, and Bear programs, and one combined for Webelos and Arrow of Light - explain the mechanics for doing so while helping to maximize advancement."
4. New Venturing awards outlined
Sections: 18.104.22.168 to 22.214.171.124
What's new: Almost everything. Last year (2014) saw the introduction of a new Venturing Awards program: Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder and Summit.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "Four awards make up the Venturing advancement track: Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder, and Summit, but others also are described below. Venturers have until their 21st birthday to complete their awards."
5. Sea Scouts aren't Venturers*
*Updated: This change is pending a vote in May.
What's new: Sea Scouting, previously considered a "special-interest program carried on as part of Venturing," is now separated.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "Sea Scouts are not Venturers." Also: "The Sea Scout Bronze Award is discontinued, and Sea Scouts no longer work on Venturing awards."
6. Unit merit badge counselor lists shouldn't be available to Scouts online
What's new: Units can (and maybe even should) establish a list of registered merit badge counselors. But Scouts should get those names and contact info from a Scoutmaster, not from a list made available online.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "Due to concerns about merit badge counselor privacy, and since Scouts should receive the names and contact information from the Scoutmaster, unit counselor lists should not be made available to Scouts online."
7. Merit badge instruction should be small in scale
What's new: Rather than large merit badge classes reminiscent of a boy's time in high school, the BSA encourages smaller-scale instruction.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "The sort of hands-on interactive experience described here, with personal coaching and guidance, is hardly ever achieved in any setting except when one counselor works directly with one Scout and his buddy, or with a very small group. Thus, this small-scale approach is the recommended best practice for merit badge instruction and requirement fulfillment. Units, districts, and councils should focus on providing the most direct merit badge experiences possible. Large group and Web-based instruction, while perhaps efficient, do not measure up in terms of the desired outcomes with regard to learning and positive association with adults."
8. Merit badge prerequisites get explained
What's new: This whole section is new. It explains merit badges that appear to have prerequisites.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "Some merit badges appear to have 'prerequisites.' The Emergency Preparedness merit badge, for example, requires the earning of the First Aid merit badge. But since the requirement does not state that First Aid must be earned before beginning work on the other Emergency Preparedness requirements, it is not, by definition, a prerequisite. It is just another requirement. Even though 'Earn the First Aid Merit badge' is the first requirement, it need not be the first requirement fulfilled. It is just that the Emergency Preparedness merit badge is not finished until after the First Aid merit badge is completed."
9. Youth observers aren't allowed at boards of review
What's new: No youth should sit in to "observe" a board of review.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "The unit leader may remain in the room, but only to observe, not to participate unless called upon. The number of 'observers' at a board of review should otherwise be minimized. The members of the board of review, however, have the authority to exclude the unit leader or any other observers if they believe their presence will inhibit open and forthright discussion. Youth observers are not permitted in boards of review for Boy Scouting advancement."
10. Guidance offered for boards of review conducted through videoconferencing
What's new: This whole section is new. It covers boards of review conducted through videoconferencing. Face-to-face boards of review are preferred, but sometimes that's impossible. So this section helps explain how to run a successful board of review through this format.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "From time to time, however, as Scouts go off to college or the military, or live in very remote locations, for example, it may be virtually impossible to hold in-person boards of review. In those rare situations where it is unreasonable to expect a Scout to travel long distances, or to wait several months, it is permissible to use videoconferencing."
11. The official Eagle Scout Rank Application is the only one to use
What's new: A clarification explains that the official Eagle Scout Rank Application (512-728) is the only one Scouts should use.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "Scouts must submit the official Eagle Scout Rank Application, No. 512-728, found at www.scouting.org/advancement. No other form or application is permitted. Special worksheets or spreadsheets have been created in some councils that when filled out electronically produce a completed application. Because the official application changes from time to time, and because submitting out-of-date applications can cause confusion and delays, Scouts must not be required to use these tools. If they do use them, they still must complete and submit the official Eagle Scout Rank Application."
12. Crowdfunding for Eagle Scout projects explained
What's new: Fundraising for Eagle Scout projects isn't required. Plenty of awesome projects are completed without fundraising. But if a Scout needs to raise money, he may use crowdfunding to do so, provided he follows the policies outlined in this section. This is something I've blogged about.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "Typical unit fundraisers with which unit leadership is familiar, such as car washes, are the best options. Another alternative, contingent on local council approval, is the use of 'crowdfunding' via the Internet. If this method is used, however, then all concerned, from the Scout and his parent or guardian to the unit leader and those approving fundraising at the local council, should be aware that fees may be involved and that fundraising for something like an Eagle project may or may not comply with the website's terms of service. There can be other issues as well, such as what to do if more - or less - than what is needed is raised. It is important that someone in a position of responsibility reads and understands the website's 'fine print.'"
13. Request for Registration Beyond the Age of Eligibility form created
What's new: This new form is used to register a person who will remain as a youth member beyond the age of eligibility.
Excerpt from 2015 Guide to Advancement: "The Request for Registration Beyond the Age of Eligibility, No. 512-935, found in the appendix and at www.scouting.org/advancement, should be used in this process."
See the complete 2015 Guide to Advancement
Go here for the PDF.