There are two primary curricula in figure skating schools, promoted by the Ice Skating Institute (called Learn To Skate or weSkate) and by US Figure Skating (Basic Skills). Many rinks also use their own curricula, although my sense is that this is getting rarer; using an established curriculum means that standards are starting to, well, standardize nationwide. You can now move from Chicago to Tucson, and if you tell the ice rink there "I was in Basic 4" or "I just passed Delta" they know pretty much where to put you, regardless of the curriculum that they use.
Along with the curricula, come bells and whistles. Basic Skills in particular sends lots of fun stickers and pictures and posters and progress books. You're also automatically a member of Basic Skills when you register for a basic skills program. You don't have to sign up separately. ISI has patches for registering tests, but you have to join ISI, on your own (rather than through the rink, with them handling the paperwork) which I think is just a barrier to membership.
Anyway, the patches and stickers and poster are a great way to motivate kids, to promote figureskating...
And to drive skating coaches and directors to insanity.
The problem is carrying all this stuff, and coordinating the awards. Basic Skills has sticker books. The kid gets a book, listing all the skills, with a sheet of stickers. The teacher is supposed to put the sticker in the book when the skater masters the skill. Here's what actually happens:
1. The kid gets the book on the first day of class, and yay! stickers! All stickers go immediately into random spots in the book, if you're lucky, and on the car window if you're not.
2. The kids who haven't used up all the stickers already bring the book, as instructed on the last day of class. The teacher is now juggling 14 books and trying to remember which kid gets which sticker. This all has to happen in the last 5 minutes of class, because the parents aren't paying you to put stickers in some stupid book.
3. Unless of course, you don't manage to get the stickers into the book, making Princess cry, and what kind of skating teacher are you, anyway.
4. The kids who DON'T pass and therefore aren't entitled to stickers want stickers anyway, because kids today get rewarded for simply breathing, which I guess they wouldn't be motivated to do if they didn't get stickers.
5. The kids who pass some things but not others want to know why they can't just pass to the next level anyway, since they have stickers (plus I'm still unclear on what prevents them from simply putting the stickers in their own books.)
ISI doesn't overload you with crap to carry around, and intelligently does not trust children with stickers; what they have are patches.
The patches are great-- they're major bling for one thing, and look pretty cool on a bag or jacket. In the past, ISI membership was so cheap-- just $7--that rinks could work it into the cost of a class. Rinks also used to award the patches--I can remember the skating director having a drawful of patches that you got when you passed a test; I never paid for one, and my daughter's got all but the last two (FS 9 & 10, oh was that me bragging?) but apparently now they make you pay $3 per patch. Budget cuts, I assume. I haven't heard of anyone getting their ISI patch in years at my rink; I don't think they tell parents about this. You have to be motivated enough to learn about it on your own. Don't know about other rinks, but ISI still makes patches, so someone must be doing it.
The problem with the patches, is, when do you award them? I've suggested doing it in class, but of course you run up against the everyone's a winner in modern America problem: what about the kids that don't pass? They'll feel bad when they don't get a patch! Musn't have that. How do you know the kid's an ISI member? This costs $25 now, and the benefits of ISI membership are really unclear. Magazine? meh. Compete? meh. Test? Don't you do that in class anyway? You could just award it for passing the class, although some rinks will tell you that class standard is lower than "test" standard (gosh, you mean I could have been "cuting" all those kids up, rather than making them actually master the skill? Stupid me), plus the patch is supposed to denote that you've formally registered the test with ISI, and there's that $25 fee that parents aren't going to pay (did I mention that you have to pay it every year?). Also, parents can't register tests. Only rinks can register tests, and trust me, skating directors have better things to do than help ISI increase their membership.
So what to do. My crankiness and poor juggling skills aside, the bling is a nice reward for mastering a set of skills. ISI and Basic Skills membership does help keep families in skating. So how do you get the bling into the hands of the kids that have earned it?