This study assessed the nature of instruction in 314 kindergarten and first-grade classrooms from 155 schools in 48 school districts in three states. The schools served a relatively high proportion of low-income children and children of color. Despite the restricted range in student populations served, qualities of the schools and observed classroom instruction were associated with the demographics of the student body. Schools serving relatively high proportions of low-income children and children of color were rated by teachers to have more negative social climates. Teachers in these schools emphasized basic skills more and engaged in more didactic teaching and less constructivist teachingpractices. At the classroom level, teaching approaches were predicted by teachers’ goals, the ethnic composition of their classroom, and the degree to which teachers perceived the families of the children in their classroom to have challenges associated with poverty. Didactic teaching was particularly common in classrooms with a high proportion of African–American students and in which teachers believed poverty-related problems inhibited parent involvement in their children's education; constructivist teaching was high in classrooms with a high proportion of Caucasian children.