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sign off standards in a troop

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In one of those inane threads ( :) ) Oak Tree says he thinks the person doing sign off should have the authority to interpret the requirements. Sometimes this isn't hard to do (camp X number of nights, for example). Sometimes it is though, as we see every time that tenderfoot fitness requirement is brought up. And in larger troops with a bunch of new scouts (hey! like ours right now!) it can be a real challenge because not all people with authority to sign off use the same interpretation.


So in larger troops where multiple people have signing authority (including maybe some of the higher-ranked boys), does the SM or someone sit down with all of the signers and say "this is our standard" for each requirement? What else do you do in your troop to assure at least some consistency here?

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     When I accepted the position of SM on of the first things I did was to sit down and "interpret" every requirement for every rank up to First Class. I put these into four separate ringed binders. I then asked my first SPL to look these over and discuss them with me. Each SPL after that has done the same, in 18 years there were two changes to my original draft. As scouts advance in rank and are allowed to sign off they must review the rank they are signing for and answer a few brief questions by the SPL or ASPL to insure the review actually took place. I read several threads in which "a boy's best" should be the bench mark but I think skill acquisition should be the bench mark. When you can do "it" you get credit. Special cases are just that and are handled by an ASM designated for that case.

     Currently I no longer serve as SM for any troop. One troop I'm associated with went so far as to interpret Second Class req 1b. to mean a boy that accompanies his group on a hike at which one of the FATHERS has a map and a compass is used by that FATHER qualifies. The rational being the req does not state that the boy must be the one that is using the compass and map and that having each boy do this separate would not be possible time wise. This troop has a high attrition rate and no boys older than 15. Another troop is "boy led" and they interpret this req to mean that the map and compass are passed among those seeking sign off and at least two "qualified" scouts be present on the hike. The lack of adult "quality control" has resulted in a degradation of the skill level that when several of the older (15-17) senior scouts came to me to pass Orienteering Merit Badge I found that they actually knew very little of the basic skills. It's the skill acquisition and fun that those skills bring that results in retention IMO.


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Yah, Lisa'bob, I think in the best troops there's some effort made to get everyone on the same page, just as LongHaul suggests. Mostly, it's a bit less formal, but I've certainly seen some excellent documents just like what LongHaul describes.


One unit I know makes new signers shadow an experienced youth or adult for a bit before they allow them to sign off on requirements. Only after they demonstrate a common standard are they allowed to sign off on their own. This also catches adult & youth skill weaknesses.


Keepin' our eyes on the goals and common vision is also part of the purpose of conferences and BORs, eh? As troops get bigger, yeh need reviews and feedback to ensure program quality.


I bet there are other mechanisms out there. Mostly, though, a good SM keeps his/her antennas up. It's pretty obvious when the kids have identified a "weak link" pencil-whipper, eh!




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At the moment I do what Beavah talks about - keep my antennae up. Talk with people, watch for issues. Work with new adults individually. As Barry suggests, I find that 50% of my job as SM is talking with the other adults and ensuring a common vision. I'm sure we have some slight variations in interpretations, but it doesn't usually rise to a problematic level, and if it does, then I can deal with it.


That said, I do like LongHaul's method. Because we do undoubtedly have some different interpretations, and especially as new people come into the troop, it would be good to let them all have something to read to get them on the same page. I would guess that Stosh's ASM training program would also be good for this type of thing. We in our troop used to get into regular discussions about the Tenderfoot fitness requirement until we settled into a pattern that worked for everyone.


Sometimes if we're doing a station on a campout, I'll talk with the Scout and/or ASM who is running the station, to validate the rigidity of the requirement. One trend I've observed is that the older Scouts will often enforce a higher standard than the adults would choose.

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