Ed Reformer: Nakita Packer


Unleashing Potential: How Nakita Packer is Revolutionizing Special Education in DC

By Minetre Martin, DFER D.C.

Meet Nakita Henderson Packer, a driving force at Bridges Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. Nakita’s decision to become an Education Reform Champion was driven by her belief in the transformative power of inclusive education. She has redefined special education with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework. Promoting diverse student engagement, her UDL-guided program has driven an impressive 9.1% rise in PARCC test scores, even during the global pandemic.

Nakita’s success has been evident in many of her students’ successful transition from a special education class setting into a general classroom setting. Bridges PCS was acknowledged for Nakita’s work with the Bold Performance School Award, solidifying their innovative influence in special education. The significance of this award is best described by a statement from EmpowerK12:

“This year’s Bold Performance Schools have 2022 PARCC proficiency rates that were an average of 9.1 percentage points better than other Bold-eligible schools, and their 2022 PARCC 4+ proficiency rates were 2.6 percentage points better than the pre-pandemic average for schools serving similar demographics.”

Now, thanks to her tireless training and mentorship, her colleagues at Bridges PCS have embraced the UDL framework as well.

Her strides haven’t just captured local attention. In 2022, Nakita and Bridges PCS were invited to participate at the prestigious Elevate Conference, a premier professional development event for Pre-K – 2nd Grade Educators. They shared their success with the UDL framework, further extending their influence and sharing their innovative approach with educators from across the country.

Outside her professional life, Nakita balances passion and personal time, reminding us that harmony in life is achievable. Nakita’s work is a testament to the transformative power of inclusive education, setting a new standard for special education.

Ed Reformer: Christine Miller


The Journey of an Ed Reform Champion

By Kyle Myers, DFER D.C.

Christine Miller has been dedicated to her community work for over 10 years. She is a proud mother, former ANC1 commissioner, and an outstanding education advocate for our students here in the District. She began her advocacy after noticing her child’s Pre-K school had limited options for enrichment activities as opposed to other schools with robust menus for students to choose from. This motivated Christine to take a stand and advocate for equal access and quality of service for all of our children in the District. The more she continued this work, the more familiar she became with the broader spectrum of what families need, even beyond school activities.

During my recent interview, Christine shared:

“This city faces the glaring challenge of persistent disparities between different groups of students along racial and socioeconomic lines but also with its failures to meet the diverse needs of our students with disabilities. We know that there are areas of this city with schools that are doing just fine, it’s time to double down on those areas where we know we have failed our children, families, and communities for generations. We need to stop acting surprised when we see dramatic gaps in test scores and outcomes between those communities in which families and children struggle against external stressors and generational disinvestments compared with those with vastly greater amounts of resources both in schools and at home. Supporting our kids should not begin and end at the doors of our school buildings, we have to do better in how we support parents, caregivers, and entire communities.”

This was a true testament to how deeply she cares and understands the needs of students and families. One of her greatest highlights has been making connections and creating her own extensive network of people by building relationships to attack these issues head-on. Being an Education Reform Champion has amplified her connections and helped to expand the scope of her advocacy. Christine has championed DFER D.C.’s priorities and is deeply dedicated to our mission.

Christine also shared:

“One priority that resonates is resource equity, especially as we are working to ensure access to quality education for all students and creating an equitable system that provides every child with the opportunity to succeed, regardless of their socio-economic background, ethnicity, or ability. Yes to investing in schools but also YES to investing in families and communities with a more holistic approach to education. It is not just about academic achievement but also about nurturing the social, emotional, and physical well-being of students.”

Christine believes that successful outcomes have to look beyond the four walls of a school. Success includes the whole child, the whole family, and the whole community. The continued patterns of failure need to be unlearned and addressed head-on by new approaches.

Thank you, Christine, for your tireless leadership and dedication to equitable education for all of D.C.’s public school students!