Wisconsin - Content Standards: World Languages

World Languages
Policy Type: 

Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for Foreign Languages reflects the latest research in the field of second language instruction as presented in Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century.1 This document, developed by leaders in second language education from across the United States, outlines standards for language learning. The Wisconsin content standards were adopted from this national document. 

Wisconsin State Statutes require access to world language education beginning in grade 7. The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction strongly recommends beginning regular world language instruction as early as possible in the elementary grades. Instruction should be in the target language 90% of the time (ACTFL Recommendations) with a curriculum based on Wisconsin’s Model Academic Standards for Learning World Languages.


Wisconsin's Model Academic Standards for Foreign Languages were first published in 1997. They have changed local curriculum design and classroom instruction. Our work with the foreign language community has led to this first revision. The content standards remain unchanged, but we move from the original description of performance standards for elementary, middle, and high school students to a "four-step-model": beginning, developing, transitioning, and refining. These standards still describe what is possible to achieve in a K-12 program of foreign language instruction. Only when students begin to learn a foreign language in elementary grades will they be able to achieve the “refining” level of these standards. However, because at the beginning of the 21st century very few students in Wisconsin study foreign languages at the elementary level, describing four levels of performance will help districts set their own appropriate targets for a sequential program, whether it begins in elementary grades, middle school, or senior high. The most critical factor in developing higher levels of proficiency in a second language is time. These four levels describe what students can do in a second language when they begin in elementary school.

Adopting Authority: 
Chief State School Officer
Implementing Authority: 
State Department of Education
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