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Social Studies Standards


The Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies

WI Standards for Social Studies Cover

The Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies (2018) were adopted by the Wisconsin State Superintendent for school districts to consider in their work with social studies education programs.

The Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies provide a foundation that identifies what students should know and be able to do in social studies classes.

Check the Social Studies Professional Development Calendar and the Professional Learning pages for more information about online and face to face standards sessions.


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Social Studies Forward Exam Webinar 11/14/2022

Webinar held on November 14, 2022 about the revised Forward exam, now aligned to the 2018 Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies.  The 2022 Forward exam was the first year of complete alignment to the 2018 standards.  


Social Studies in Wisconsin
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Reinvigorating the civic mission of public education should be the top priority for anyone concerned about the future health of our government and our society.  Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor

Social studies prepares our young people to be college, career, and community ready.  It has separate content strands, yet is most understandable to students as an interdisciplinary topic.  

Social studies is composed of deep and enduring understandings, content, inquiry, concepts, and skills from the fields of geography, history, political science and civics, economics, and the behavioral sciences.

Components of the Standards

Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies

Here are some things to look for in these standards:

  1. The Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies focus on both content and skills.  The addition of the Inquiry Practices and Processes strand reflects the College, Career, and Civic Life (C3) Framework published by the National Council for the Social Studies.

  2. The Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies are organized by grade bands: K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. This allows for some flexibility in instruction and greater differentiation for the support of students over time. 

  3. There are 28 social studies standards identified for grades kindergarten through 12. This is a shift from Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Social Studies (the previous state standards), which had dozens of indicators at 4th, 8th, and 12th grades.  

  4. Performance indicators within the standards allow for flexibility for educators and school communities to identify more specific elements through their own curricular development. 

Social Studies Strands - The six strands differentiated within the standards are: 

  • Inquiry Practices and Processes
  • Behavioral Sciences (which include Anthropology, Psychology, and Sociology)
  • Economics
  • Geography
  • History
  • Political Science

Standards Structure

Standard: Broad statement that tells what students are expected to know or be able to do.

Learning Priority: Breaks down the broad statement into manageable learning pieces.

Performance Indicator by grade band: Measurable degree to which a standard has been developed or met.       

Grade Bands - K - 2nd (Elementary), 3rd - 5th (Intermediate), 6th - 8th (Middle School), and 9th - 12th (High School)

Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies Review and Revision Process

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has a transparent and comprehensive process for reviewing and revising academic standards. The process involves the wide gathering of ideas from multiple persons including music teachers, administrators, parents, business professionals, music industry and service organizations, and leaders from across the state. The process is outlined within the standards review/revision process  link.

The process began with a Notice of Intent to review and a public comment period which began on August 2nd, 2017 for Social Studies. The State Superintendent’s Standards Review Council examined those comments and recommended to revise the standards. The State Superintendent authorized the writing of new Wisconsin Academic Standards for Social Studies.

The first draft was released on January 31, 2018 for public review and provided to the education committees of the legislature. Public hearings took place on February 12th in Oshkosh (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.) and February 13th in Madison (4:30 to 6:30 p.m.). The writing team met in early March to review all public comment.

The draft standards were presented to the State Superintendent’s Standards Review Council on March 23, 2018, where after they recommended the state superintendent formally adopt the draft. State Superintendent Tony Evers formally adopted the Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies on May 29, 2018.

2017-18 State Superintendent’s Social Studies Standards Writing Committee

This work is made possible through the efforts of a dedicated team of educators, administrators, higher education staff, and industry professionals. The Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies were shaped by this team’s expertise and generous nature, with the goal of creating a tool that could be used by fellow educators, parents, community members, and the learners in their care, to build skills and knowledge in all social studies areas. Members of the writing committee donated numerous hours and shared their expertise in the development of the social studies standards document. These members include:


  • Che Kearby, Kenosha Unified School District
  • Dr. Corey Thompson, Cardinal Stritch University


  • Jacob Bertagnoli, Lincoln High School, Wisconsin Rapids
  • Sandra Brauer, North Woods International School, La Crosse
  • Kimberly Cade, Viroqua Elementary School
  • Carrie Carlson, North High School, Eau Claire
  • Joel Chrisler, Sauk Prairie High School, Prairie du Sac
  • Craig Clauson, Edgewood High School, Madison
  • Tony DeVine, Dr. Rose Minoka-Hill School, Green Bay
  • Lyman Elliott, Madison Metropolitan School District
  • Matt Fry, Lancaster Middle School
  • Tom Fugate, Homestead High School, Mequon
  • E-Ben Grisby, West High School, Green Bay
  • Dr. Jennifer Hafer, UW-River Falls
  • Anne Hasse, Wakanda Elementary School, Menomonie
  • Pam Kaiser, Osceola High School
  • Mike Ketola, Northwestern Middle School, Poplar
  • Todd Kornack, Chippewa Falls High School
  • Sara Kreibich, Somerset High School
  • Emily Lovell, Holmen Middle School
  • Jodi Mallak, Wittenberg Elementary School
  • Andrew Martin, James Madison Academic Campus, Milwaukee
  • Matthew Mauk, Oshkosh West High School
  • Parisa Meymand, Central High School, Salem
  • Sherri Michalowski, Wisconsin Hills Middle School, Brookfield
  • Connie Michaud, Fairview School, Milwaukee
  • Jennifer Morgan, West Salem Middle School
  • David Olson, James Madison Memorial High School, Madison
  • Erin Patchak, Bay View Middle School, Green Bay
  • Kevin Podeweltz, Riverside Elementary School, Ringle
  • Vicki Porior, Carl Traeger Middle School, Oshkosh
  • Andy Riechers, Belmont Junior/Senior High School
  • Amber Seitz, Wisconsin Bankers Association
  • Kyle Smith, Superior High School
  • Chuck Taft, University School of Milwaukee
  • Ann Viegut, John Muir Middle School, Wausau
  • Jen Wachowski, Mishicot High School
  • Michelle Wade, Milwaukee Public Schools
  • Paul Walter, Slinger Middle School
  • Rhonda Watton, Templeton Middle School, Sussex
  • Michael Yell, Hudson Middle School
  • Brent Zinkel, Wausau East High School


Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) facilitator:

  • Kris McDaniel, WI DPI Social Studies Consultant
Standards Writing Team Resources

Many resources were used by the writing team to develop the Wisconsin Standards for Social Studies.

Special thanks for the assistance from the Wisconsin Historical Society in determining eras and themes for the history strand.

Wisconsin Implementation Plans

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (WI DPI) will be updating the resources on this page to support districts in learning about and implementing the social studies standards. WI DPI supports a three-year implementation for districts to ensure appropriate time to fully implement the social studies standards into the curriculum, instruction, and assessment.



Looking for Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Social Studies?

For questions about this information, contact Kristen McDaniel (608) 266-2207