We observed 223 largely suburban or rural public school kindergarten classrooms in 3 states to describe classroom activities and child-teacher interactions involving 1 child per classroom. We also observed global classroom quality and assessed its relation to teacher, school, classroom, and family characteristics and target child outcomes. Classrooms were observed once for 3 hours starting at the beginning of the school day. Time samplings of activities, teacher behaviors, and child behaviors as well as global ratings of teacher-target child interactions and the classroom environment were obtained. The most frequently observed forms of activity were structured teacher-directed activity and whole-group instruction. There was tremendous variation in the occurrence of these activities across classrooms, ranging from 0% to 100% of the observation period. Global ratings of teachers' positive interactions with the target child, classroom instructional climate, and classroom child-centered climate were lower when the concentration of poverty in the school was high, when the target child's family income was low, and when the number of staff available to work with children in that classroom was low. Target students' observed social and on-task behavior and teachers' reports of social and academic competence for target children were higher when these global ratings indicated higher quality, even controlling for family background factors. These data may have implications for educational policies on class size and composition, and issues of equity in early school experiences.
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