Wisconsin Model Early Learning Standards


The WI Model Early Learning Standards (WMELS) specify developmental expectations for children from birth through the entrance to 1st grade. The standards reflect the domains of a child's learning & development. The domains include: Health & Physical Development; Social & 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

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

  • Share a common language & responsibility for the well-being of children from birth to first grade;
  • Know & understand developmental expectations of young children;
  • Understand the connection between the foundations of early childhood, K-12 educational experiences & lifelong learning.

Guiding Principles

  1. All children are capable & competent.
  2. Early relationships matter.
  3. A child's early learning & development is multidimensional.
  4. Expectations for children must be guided by knowledge of child growth & 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 & competencies within any domain of development.
  8. Children learn through play & the active exploration of their environment.
  9. Parents are children's primary & most important caregivers & educators.


More than 90 Approved WMELS Trainers are available to train in your area of the state. Trainers include: child care providers, teachers (classroom & higher education), program support personnel, technical assistance personnel & 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. 2 full days, 3 partial days, 5+ parts (2-3 hours) of days or evenings. WMELS Trainings are available for University & Technical College Credit.

WMELS Copyright 

The WMELS 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 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 & content may not be used for anything not related to this initiative & their use must also be approved by the cross-department steering committee.


For more information, contact Tiffany Swain, Early Childhood Content Specialist: [email protected]

National Resources

Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA) (website) contains resources to improve systems, practices & outcomes

A Historical View of the WMELS  (pdf) 6/14/15


Updated 10/19/2019

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