Cognitive competencies and motivation were assessed at the beginning and the end of the year for 228 preschoolers and kindergartners and again at the end of the next year (kindergarten or first grade) for 93 of the participants. Participants were in classrooms classified as either emphasizing basic skills in a less positive social climate or de-emphasizing basic skills in a more positive social climate. Cognitive competencies were assessed with two achievement tests (one for letters/reading and another for numbers/math) and six subscales from the McCarthy test. Motivation (perceptions of competence, attitudes toward school, anxiety, affect, risk taking, expectations for success, independence, and persistence) was assessed in an experimental setting and by observing children's behavior in their classroom. The results showed primarily negative effects on both cognitive and motivation outcomes of preschool programs emphasizing basic skills using structured, teacher-directed approaches in a relatively negative social climate. For kindergartners both positive and negative achievement and motivation outcomes were associated with both types of classrooms.