Soon after Scouts complete requirements for a rank, they should appear before a board of review that helps them celebrate their accomplishments and motivates them to push forward on the trail to Eagle—a friendly one for sure.
Bryan Wendell, Scouting Magazine Editor, says, “The board of review is a chance for adults to talk with the Scout about what he’s done, what he’s learned, how has it helped him in his advancement and how he’s enjoying the program.”
Michelle Field, Denver Area Council, had this to say about her first board experience with a Tenderfoot Scout: “We ended the interview with words of encouragement and helped him think about ways to advance to his next rank.”
Thinking back to the boards of review in my Scout life, I remember being anxious. Not that I hadn’t done the work—I knew I had—but I was intimidated by adults I hardly knew firing questions one after another at me. It was hard for me and I suppose it would be for any young Scout.
In last year’s November-December 2015 issue of Advancement News it asks, “If the thought of a performance review at work scares you, imagine how an 11-year-old Scout must feel as he approaches a panel of adults sitting as a ‘board of review.’ As Scouters, we must do everything we can to make these boards rewarding experiences for our Scouts.”
Since a board of review is an essential part of the Scouting experience for every youth 11 and older (it’s required for every rank from Tenderfoot to Eagle Scout, plus the Eagle palms and Venturing awards), it’s important for unit committees to know their roles in one.
The purpose of a review according to the Guide to Advancement “is to determine the quality of his experience and decide whether he has fulfilled the requirements for the rank.” It goes on to explain that the board should also encourage the Scout on journey to Eagle.
What about Venturers?
The Venturing board of review is covered in the Guide to Advancement, section 188.8.131.52. and in the Venturing Board of Review Guide (No. 512-940) found at the Advancement Resources web page (www.scouting.org/advancement).
According to The Scoutmaster Handbook, the purpose of the board of review is “not to retest a Scout, but rather to ensure that he has completed all of the requirements, to determine the quality of his troop experience, and to encourage him to advance toward the next rank. Each review should also include a discussion of ways in which the Scout sees himself living up to the Scout Oath and Law in his everyday life” and beyond.
The tasks of the board include:
“We’ll talk to him about some of the merit badges: What was the most difficult one? What was the simplest one? Why?”—Dan DiBiase, committee chairman for Troop 888 in Dayton, N.J.
Boards focus on different topics depending on the rank in question. “Tenderfoot, Second Class, and First Class are primarily concerned with requirements and Scout skills,” DiBiase says. “As they get older, you’re doing less of that and talking more about leadership.”
“There are a million and eight things you can talk about that have nothing to do with Scouting,” DiBiase says. “It’s important that you get to know the boys a little bit — not just the Scouting stuff.”
- Check requirements: this is not a retest, all the board should do is check to make sure nothing has been overlooked. Has the Scout completed all of the requirements for this rank including the Scoutmaster conference? The board can make this a records check, then take the opportunity to learn more about the boy’s experience in Scouting.
- Review experiences: assess the quality of the Scout’s experience in the troop. Many boys will be frank since unit leaders are not present. They will let you know if they are having fun and experiencing growth through the adventure of Scouting. The committee can take action on any problems like boring meetings or too few campouts.
- Encourage advancement: each board of review should direct the Scout toward the next rank. Scouting magazine suggests: “At a First Class board, it’s helpful to talk about positions of responsibility and merit badges, which are key requirements for Star. At a Life board, potential Eagle Scout service projects are an ideal topic.”
- Discuss everyday life: not unlike the Scoutmaster conference, the board of review can be a chance to make connections between Scouting and everyday life.
In the end, however, the board of review is not about the questions. It’s about the Scout and his growth through Scouting’s advancement program.
Composition of the Board
The board of review is made up of at least three adult committee members but no more than six. According the Guide to Advancement, “In units with fewer than three registered committee members available to serve, it is permissible to use knowledgeable parents (not those of the candidate) or other adults (registered or not) who are at least 21 years of age and who understand Boy Scouting’s aims.” However, using adults who are not registered with BSA should be the exception, not the norm.
It’s always best to use registered committee members who know the unit’s program, who have had a background check and have taken Youth Protection training. The Guide to Advancement states, “Scheduling boards of review when and where committee members can attend usually alleviates the problem of not having enough committee members for a board.”
Also remember adult Scout leaders and assistants can’t serve on a board of review for any Scout in their own unit. If parents or guardians serve they cannot be present in a review for their own son. Also the candidate or his parent/guardian(s) cannot select any board of review members.
The Guide to Advancement continues with these points:
- For a Varsity Scout team, the committee member responsible for advancement, the advancement program manager (youth), and the Coach serve on the board. Composition for Boy Scout rank or Palm boards of review held in Venturing crews or Sea Scout ships is the same as that for Boy Scout troops.
- One member serves as chair. The unit committee decides how he or she is chosen. The chair conducts review meetings according to BSA procedures and reports results to the unit advancement coordinator.
- The location should be comfortable, such as the unit meeting place, a camp, or a leader’s home.
- The review should take approximately 15 minutes, but not longer than 30 minutes.
- Ranks and Palms shall not be presented until the signed advancement report is submitted to the local council.
- If a Scout is to be reviewed for more than one rank (Tenderfoot, Second Class, or First Class), each rank should have a separate board of review. While these boards may be conducted on the same date, it is preferred—if feasible—that different members be involved on the boards to give the young man an enhanced experience and an opportunity to interact with a variety of adults.
Because the board of review date is the official advancement date, boards should be convened as soon as Scouts are ready. As suggested in the Guide to Advancement, some units set up a regular schedule that “assures Scouts are not delayed in beginning time-oriented requirements for the next rank” and makes sure Scouts are registered through the time they worked on advancement requirements.
Where can you learn more?
Hear more in the November 2016 ScoutCast
For more of this discussion, listen to the November 2016 episode of ScoutCast. You can also search “ScoutCast” in your favorite podcasting app to listen right on your phone.
Scouting magazine: Facts and suggestions on leading effective boards of review
Scouting magazine: This is Not a Test