Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards: About
girls smiling on a bus

What are the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards?

The Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS) specify developmental expectations for children from birth through entrance to 1st grade. The standards reflect the domains of a child's learning and development. The domains include: Health & Physical Development; Social and Emotional Development: Language Development & Communication; Approaches to Learning: Cognition & General Knowledge.
Each domain is divided into sub-domains which include developmental expectations, program standards, performance standards & developmental continuum. Samples of children's behavior & adult strategies are also provided.
WMELS detailed description.


Why have model early learning standards?

Based on research and supported by evidence-based practices, the WMELS provide a framework for families, professionals and policy makers to:


What are the Guiding Principles that informed the development of the standards?

  1. All children are capable and competent.
  2. Early relationships matter.
  3. A child's early learning and development is multidimensional.
  4. Expectations for children must be guided by knowledge of child growth and development.
  5. Children are individuals who develop at various rates.
  6. Children are members of cultural groups that share developmental patterns.
  7. Children exhibit a range of skills and competencies within any domain of development.
  8. Children learn through play and the active exploration of their environment.
  9. Parents are children's primary and most important caregivers and educators.

An explanation of these nine guiding principles is on the Guiding Principles page.


What Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards Training is Available Throughout the State?

More than 90 Approved WMELS Trainers are available to train in your area of the state. WMELS Approved Trainers include: child care providers, teachers (classroom & higher education), program support personnel, technical assistance personnel, and administrators that represent the full-range of services offered to young children birth to 1st grade. The training is 15-18 hours and is offered over a period of days )e.g. two whole days, three part days, five or more parts (2-3 hours) of days or evenings. WMELS Trainings are available for University and Technical College Credit.
Find a trainer in your area.


WMELS copyright information

The Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards are a collaborative effort between the Wisconsin departments of Children & Families (DCF), Public Instruction (DPI), and Health Services (DHS). The work is overseen by a cross-department steering committee. The Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS) are protected by copyright. Any material, websites, training materials, products or other related materials developed to align or supplement the WMELS must be approved by the cross department steering committee. WMELS graphics, design, and content may not be used for anything not related to this initiative, and their use must also be approved by the cross department steering committee. For more information contact Katherine McGurk: Kathy.McGurk@wisconsin.gov


National Resources:

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) Website with resources to improve systems, practices and outcomes

A Historical View of the Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards

June 14, 2005 (pdf)