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What is Journey to Excellence, and why should you care?

Scouting-101-logoYou think you’re making all the right moves for your Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts or Venturers, but do you really know?

With the BSA’s Journey to Excellence scorecards in hand, you can answer that question with a satisfying yes.

Journey to Excellence, often shortened to JTE, is a self-evaluation tool that lets unit leaders see, quantitatively, how well their unit is meeting the goals of Scouting. Think of it as a progress report. You can check in regularly to make sure you’re delivering the best possible program for our Scouts and Venturers.

The process is simple, and the benefits are tangible. Here’s a quick guide.

1. Learn why JTE is worth your time.

JTE scorecards offer these benefits:

  1. A framework for planning the year with standards based on what successful units do to continually improve.
  2. A method for evaluating your unit in tangible ways (number of campouts, number of youth advancing, etc.)
  3. Guidance in areas where you might do better and early warning of potential problems.
  4. Specific guidelines and standards of what is considered good performance.
  5. Recognition for good Scouting: bronze, silver or gold.
  6. Benchmarking to get ideas and tips from other good units.

2. Download the JTE scorecard.

At the beginning of each calendar year, print out the latest JTE scorecard from this website. There are scorecards for the following Scouting entities:

  • Cub Scout packs
  • Boy Scout troops
  • Venturing crews
  • Varsity teams
  • Sea Scout ships
  • Exploring posts
  • Districts
  • Exploring districts
  • Councils

3. Introduce the scorecard to your unit committee.

Ask them to fill in the sections corresponding to their function in the unit: finance, membership, program, leadership.

This is where tracking workbooks, available here, come in handy. The JTE scorecards work best when several Scouters participate in tracking.

4. Review your progress on this year’s scorecard.

At the end of the year and at regular intervals throughout the year, monitor your progress as you go for gold in JTE.

You can try a “thorns, roses and buds” approach or look at things you want to “start, stop and continue.”

Either way, learn where you aren’t maximizing your JTE points and find specific improvements. Appoint a volunteer to hold the unit accountable for those changes.

5. Look at next year’s scorecard.

The BSA releases scorecards early, meaning you have time to plan ahead so you can meet your goals. Always best to Be Prepared.

6. Complete your scorecard and turn it in.

On Dec. 31 of each year, JTE scorecards are due to your unit commissioner, district executive or council representative.

Units that plan ahead aren’t surprised by their score; they’re expecting it.

Like a marathon runner checking his watch after each mile, a unit should check its scorecard regularly to aim for gold.

Find all the Journey to Excellence information you need at this site.

19 Comments on What is Journey to Excellence, and why should you care?

  1. Ted McLaughlin // December 1, 2016 at 10:16 am // Reply

    I wonder when National will get rid of that insane requirement that to get Gold OA lodges need to “donate” $21 per member to Council FOS? That has to be the dumbest JTE requirement ever. It has zero bearing on how a lodge is functioning, and if anything I think Lodges trying to hit that mark end up causing themselves more problems.

    If the BSA needs more money then just be honest and raise dues. Don’t try to hide behind a mandatory ‘donation’. And don’t think it isn’t really mandatory. The pressure to make Gold JTE is so strong that unfortunately some ethically poor decisions are being made, just so everyone can say that they got Gold JTE.

    • John Garrett // December 1, 2016 at 11:49 am // Reply

      Our lodge leadership was looking at the same thing this week. Financially supporting the council is important, and dues don’t support the council (they help pay for the costs of the National OA program), but we were surprised that the Gold level of support is so high (it’s actually $24/Arrowman). We determined that we could still achieve JTE Gold status without being Gold on every level. As long as we have enough points from other areas, we can qualify for at least Bronze in 15 of the 17 areas and still be a Gold Lodge.

      • Ted McLaughlin // December 1, 2016 at 3:14 pm // Reply

        Ahh, don’t get me started on this. If you get 15 of 17 items as Bronze, you can still be Gold overall??? Doesn’t that statement sound wrong?

        The other problem is that more than a few lodges aren’t getting that many Bronzes, and the easy option is to give money instead. To me it’s just buying a very expensive JTE patch. And does every member of the Lodge even get a OA JTE patch for their $24??? Shall we take any bets on that?

    • Hello Ted, The OA Journey to Excellence requirements are set by the National OA Committee. I suggest that you or your lodge communicate with them.

  2. Let’s go back to “Quality Unit”. It’s NOT about the journey. What matters is whether or not a unit provides a quality Scouting program. If not, they don’t deserve a special award, even if they are improving. Let’s also get rid of Bronze/Silver/Gold levels. A unit either provides a quality program or it doesn’t. If Gold means ‘excellent’, then Silver is ‘OK’, Bronze is ‘mediocre’, and not earning that is ‘poor’. Let’s have one award for excellence and not give out ‘participation’ badges for those who haven’t reached that goal.
    And….why does troop JTE requirement 5 (Advancement) punish troops that keep Eagle Scouts actively involved? Isn’t it desirable to keep Eagles involved? Yet this requirement penalizes troops that keep Eagle active beyond the year in which they earn Eagle. The old Quality Unit awards counted Eagles as an advancement every year (since there is no higher rank to earn).

    • I agree that Item 5 should be opened up to include Eagle Palms towards that count for youth who earned Eagle the previous year.

      • Hello, Eagle Palms are not counted for JTE Advancement because the National Advancement Committee says that Eagle Palms are not a rank and are not advancement. Plus we have asked and have never learned of ONE unit which received a lower JTE rating because of not counting Eagle Palms. Gold for 2017 requires 60% of the Scouts advancing; part of the reason it is that low is to take into account Eagle Palms.

        • Except then we aren’t really measuring whether the troop is holding onto its Eagle Scouts and keeping them active through the advancement program. Are we measuring effective scout programs or are we doing something for the National Advancement Committee?

    • I actually like JTE better than the Quality Unit. With Quality Unit it allowed Units to determine whatever goal they wanted and if they reached it they were a “Quality Unit” (10% of the Unit Leaders Trained and “we’re a Quality Unit”). I like the uniform scale of rating each unit. The other thing is if you are doing all the things to deliver a quality program to your Scouts, filling out the JTE form is more academic. JTE is a good guide to help plan the Scout year.

  3. I am very happy that JTE finally made it to Exploring. As a leader in an engineering and technology focused Post with many young engineers, it makes a lot of sense to show them a documented “spec sheet” and hold that up as the goal for the year. And it gives our youth leadership projects to work on other than to just open and close each meeting. Of course, getting them to actually DO the projects is another thing. But we all must take the first step before we can take the second step.

  4. I would recommend not counting Eagle Palms, since they are not ranks. BSA’s highest award is Eagle Scout, and that’s the award that is valued in adult life. Having active Eagle Scout(s) in my troop is a significant asset whether or not they continue to earn merit badges.

  5. JTE gives you a general report card on how your unit is doing. The requirements are ever changing, so it is hard to target improvement. I thought that BSA sent out a survey on how to make JTE more meaningful; haven’t seen any results from that yet. I don’t think that the uniform patches generate much excitement.

    • We quit buying the JTE patch. Nobody sewed them on the uniform and if they did wouldn’t sew the newer one on. Incorporate JTE into the loops like they did for the Jamboree.

      • Hello Dwight, there definitely is limited use of the patches. We had thought of having JTE pins for uniform wear, but in the Voice of the Scout survey, that alternative was less popular than the patches. I rather liked the idea of pins. I also liked the idea of shoulder loops, but the problem there was cost. The current shoulder loops cost $3.99 per pair. Unmarked JTE shoulder loops would have a similar cost. We were told that marked JTE shoulder loops would cost in the $7-$8 range at the Scout Shops and that just appeared unworkable. Plus Cub Scout uniforms do not have the epaulets, so there would be no way for Cub Scouts to wear shoulder loops.

        • Dwight Reed // January 2, 2017 at 9:21 pm //

          Thanks for the response. My idea is that JTE loops should not need the year. In that way a unit purchases them once and continues to wear them as long as they retain their level. This makes the cost less of a concern. You also should not have two versions (patch or loop) – 100% Boys Life and Not. Boys Life is not and should not be part of JTE.

    • Hello Charlie, the requirements do change somewhat at the Council and District level, but at the Unit level, we try to minimize changes and only to incorporate them in response to problems or to changes in performance. If you have suggestions on how we can do better, please send them to jte@scouting.org.

  6. I like the JTE checklist for the most part. There are a couple of items on the troop checklist I would revise, but I think it is a good tool to help us set goals each year. Committee meetings are a big one for us – we used to have a difficult time scheduling meetings since parents already have enough going on, but the JTE is a good reminder to at least try and get a few in.

    • Please send your suggestions on how to revise the Troop checklist to: jte@scouting.org

  7. Matt Culbertson // January 5, 2017 at 12:57 pm // Reply

    Neil…just sent my comments to the email above. Please feel free to contact me offline.

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