Vermont Higher Education Collaborative Logo

Collaborating with experts to support schools and deliver professional development, ensuring the success of all students.

VT-HEC Enters its 15th Year – 2000-2015

15  Years Providing Quality Professional Learning Opportunities and Supports

The VT-HEC was formed in 2000 with the mission of addressing critical personnel and training needs related to improving education outcomes for all students.  VT-HEC began in response to Act 117 of the 2000 legislative session which required the Commissioner of Education to form a collaborative with colleges and others to address personnel and training issues in special education, general education, leadership, early education, etc.

VT-HEC started as a DOE program; a partnership of UVM, VT State Colleges & the Department of Education working with other organizations with the intent of addressing issues that would be difficult or impossible for any one entity to solve on its own.  The VT-HEC aimed to accomplish this by gathering together interested organizations and experts in a variety of areas to collaborate in the design and delivery of comprehensive, long-term and coherent programs of professional learning opportunities and school supports.

The VT-HEC has focused its efforts on addressing areas that are of critical importance and need such as Early Childhood, Special Education, Health Education and low-incidence disability areas such as Autism Spectrum Disorders and Intensive Special Education. It has also developed programs that provide embedded coaching and leadership support to middle and secondary schools such as the program TASS (Teaching All Secondary Students).

Over the years the VT-HEC has added other topics such as Driver Education and offered a variety of workshops series to keep up the knowledge and skills of educators and leaders in the field.  In 2014-2015 the VT-HEC offered 38 days of workshops to over 1400 participants in topics ranging from Education Law to Universal Design for Learning, from Early Childhood to Application of Principles of Neuroscience in Secondary Schools.

Over the years the VT-HEC has achieved a number of impressive accomplishments:

  • Over 360 educators completed the Special Education Licensing program and 125 completed the Early Childhood licensing programs. VT was the only state not reporting a critical shortage in special education personnel in the past few years.
  • TASS has supported over a dozen middle and high schools in their efforts to improve outcomes for all students and has been recognized for excellence in a study by Stanford University and the National Professional Development Council.
  • Three TASS schools (Harwood, Twinfield & Cabot) were the only Vermont schools awarded the coveted and competitive 2015 Personal Learning Initiative working with the League of Innovative Schools and Great Schools Partnerships.
  • The VT-HEC developed the state’s first program to train Autism Specialists and has offered annual series of workshops and courses focusing on the autism spectrum in response to this still growing need.


Yet, clearly such needs have not diminished.

  • Since 2000 the number of students identified as eligible for special education under the category of Autism has increased from 254 to 1000; at a time when the general population deceased by over 12%.
  • In spite of the overall reduction in students, the total special education count has remained the same as it was in 2000.
  • The recent focus and initiatives in Early Childhood have kept the need for trained personnel high.
  • Our secondary schools continue to struggle with the challenges of improving outcomes for all.


In 2010 the VT-HEC became an independent non-profit and has had to sustain itself on a decreasing amount of state support.  For FY16, the VT-HEC will receive no funding from the AOE.  It will be completely dependent on the revenue it can generate from participation in its offerings or raise through donations. We have every hope that the VT-HEC will continue to be successful in finding and filling critical needs in personnel preparation, professional learning and school support to help ensure improved education outcomes for all students.

Look for more posts on the first 15 years of the VT Higher Education Collaborative

Dennis has been the Director of the the VT-HEC since it was founded in 2000. He spent 16 years at the VT-DOE as Director of teams with various names that included: special education, Title I, health and wellness and other family and education support services. Prior to that Dennis worked at the Barre Town School (VT) starting as a special educator and serving many years as the Director of Student Support Services. He also spent 6 years as a classroom teacher grades 5-8 in NJ.

Leave a Reply