This observational study involved literacy and mathematics instruction of 145 teachers in grades 3 through 5 in 20 low-income schools enrolled in the U.S. government's Comprehensive School Reform (CSR) Demonstration program. Observed curriculum and instructional practices were primarily and coherently focused on acquisition of basic facts and skills and related elaborations and thinking. With few exceptions, students were on task and productive and teacher-student relationships were friendly and mutually supportive. Observations were compared with normative teaching practices. This comparison supported the conclusion that instruction in CSR classrooms did not differ from instruction typically observed in elementary school. Recommendations for enhancing normative practice within the constraints of modern school reform are made.
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