As an artist on the school circuit, singer-actor Derek Evans has played every "hall" from gyms to cafeterias. Mr. Evans and his team of performers are part of Chicago's "Urban Gateways," the largest arts-in-the-schools program in the United States.
All states now have arts-in-the-schools programs of some kind. Tight school budgets eliminated many arts specialists from teaching staffs. Yet art and music often remain on the required curriculum.
Many grade-and high-school teachers try their best to include it. But rarely have they had much specific training. They say programs such as Urban Gateways can make a big difference.
Jessie Woods, the group's executive director, says that the arts in schools once were regarded as a frill. But now they are seen as more basic to student development and a valid technique for understanding complex concepts in other subjects.
With the exception of 44 inner-city schools in Chicago, which get subsidized Gateways programs, students pay a modest fee for performances. Parents also are encouraged to pay a fee and to take part in the program.
According to Katie Waller, director of Gateways community programs, the experience has inspired a number of parents who had dropped out of school to return and finish.