The Muni Mine Field

Not long ago, the Richmond (Calif.) school system was at the top of its class. Under a charismatic new superintendent, Walter L. Marks, the suburban San Francisco district launched an ambitious--and costly--"magnet school" program that allowed students to choose what school to attend. Two years ago, Richmond was transformed into a national showcase for school reform when the White House picked the system to host a three-day conference attended by 1,000 educators.

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