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GIS and Maps

What is GIS?

Image of GIS layer symbol

A geographic information system (GIS) is a framework for creating, storing, managing, analyzing, and visualizing data that identifies geographic locations of natural and man-made land features and boundaries.

Features and images in GIS are spatial when they are referenced to locations on Earth using coordinates (e.g. school locations). “Information” refers to tabular data containing spatial and non-spatial attributes. This is information about the spatial features (e.g. a school’s name, level, and district). “System” ties everything together so spatial features are associated with non-spatial attributes in a database.

Beyond mapping the location of schools and district boundaries, we can use GIS to see the spatial distribution of enrollment, demographics, and student outcomes, as well as change over time. Viewing education data through a geospatial lens can reveal patterns and relationships unseen in typical tables and charts - helping us answer questions. Overlaying multiple spatial data layers in a GIS environment can provide context to education data and unveil correlations between the phenomena.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI) collects and maintains spatial data related to schools, districts, and public libraries and makes them available to the public via its GIS Open Data Portal.

What is an Open Data Portal?

Since its early days, GIS has evolved from a system of records to a system of engagement - citizens can have a direct role in identifying problems, making decisions, and providing solutions to problems in the community. Open data simply means that data is published publicly in a portal so it can be used by anyone to enhance innovation and bring change in society.

DPI created a GIS Open Data Portal to provide access to its published geospatial data. This portal is a result of a collective effort among Wisconsin state agencies to publish their authoritative GIS data for public consumption and use. The GIS Open Data Portal contains a collection of GIS resources, such as layers, maps, and web applications. Users can:

  • Discover, explore, and download GIS data containing boundary or location information
  • Visualize summarized school and district data via DPI-curated maps and web applications

GIS Open Data Portal

What is available (and not available) in the GIS Open Data Portal?

Image of map place marker

The GIS layers available to the public on the DPI’s GIS Open Data Portal can be utilized in conjunction with DPI’s Wisconsin public school data (e.g. WISEdash Data Files).

The GIS boundary and location data layers available for download do not contain student data. Any school or district data (e.g. enrollment, assessment, or graduation data) displayed with the GIS data has been summarized and redacted to protect privacy.

Please note:  DPI’s spatial datasets are as spatially accurate and contain the best information the department has to date, but we cannot guarantee its accuracy. The datasets should not be used for any land transactions, financial decisions, taxation, surveying, or other similar uses.

The data and resources on the GIS Open Data Portal are intended for short-term access and/or download. They are offered as-is and may be updated or removed at any time.

GIS Data


School and District Data

  • Public Schools
  • School Districts   Note: These do not include school attendance areas
    • Unified district boundaries (K-12)

    • Secondary district boundaries (9-12)

    • Elementary district boundaries (K-8)

  • Cooperative Educational Service Agencies (CESAs)
  • Technical College Regions

Library Data

  • Public Libraries and Branches
  • Public Library Systems


In addition to GIS data, DPI’s Open Data Portal contains curated maps and web applications that allow users to explore education and library datasets in context with one another and with other relevant data. As a reminder, non-GIS school and district data has been summarized and redacted to protect privacy. Content will be updated as new information becomes available.


For questions about this information, contact Shelley Witte (608) 266-3939

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