Illuminate Testing System Provides Thorough Preparation for Milestones

Ellie Furr, Staff writer

Illuminate is not your ordinary testing platform.

The new system, which was mandated by the county this year, was created by students at the University of Georgia in order to prepare elementary, middle, and high school students for the Georgia Milestones Assessments, which are taken in certain core subjects in the spring. So far, it is drawing the favor of several teachers and administrators due to its versatility and useful characteristics.

Shaheen Begum, who teaches a ninth-grade biology class that will take a Milestone assessment, has had a positive experience with the platform so far.

“I like all the features it has,” said Begum. “It can be used for much more than formative assessments.”

In addition to test preparation, Illuminate can also assist teachers in providing students with the content they need to know for the Milestone. Begum likes the advanced level of the questions and material that Illuminate provides.

“It incorporates analysis and higher-order critical thinking questions into lesson plans,” said Begum.

The system also helps to make sure that all students are on track and up to par with the standards for each unit.

“It’s a great way to progress monitor students, to make sure that they are grasping the material before we get to a summative test or Milestones,” said assistant principal Gail Barnes.

When a summative test is taken through the system, a number of resources are available to test administrators as the test is being taken.

“As the test is going on, a teacher can have the platform up, and they can see exactly what you put for one, what another student put for one, if it’s right or if it’s wrong, in real time,” said Barnes.

Once the test is over, Illuminate gives teachers an in-depth analysis of the test and the responses of each student. This helps instructors understand which concept their students are grasping and which they need to spend more time on.

“It’s meant to give another data point for teachers so that they can either reteach the standards so that we can make sure kids are getting ready for the Milestone,” said Barnes.

While students certainly benefit in the long run, that is, they will ideally perform better on the Milestones, Illuminate and the data it provides is a much more useful resource for teachers during the school year.

“It gives feedback to the teachers so that they can monitor their own instruction to determine if they are teaching at the level that they need to be at,” said Barnes.

Barnes and Begum, along with a few other teachers, underwent training to learn how to use the system. However, many teachers do not have experience with the platform yet. Barnes admits that even she has to play around with it a little.

“It’s the first year that we’re using it, so we’re rolling things out,” said Barnes. “I think that until we fully understand its capability, it’s going to take a minute [to fully apply it].”

Just a few weeks ago, teachers and students administered and took their first assessment through Illuminate. It took students longer than it should have to complete their tests due to the high number of free response questions.

“We just went through the first go-round, the first unit, and [we knew] that was going to be a challenge,” Barnes.

But Barnes is hopeful that Illuminate will be a beneficial tool for students and teachers alike.

“There’s a lot of things that it can be used for,” said Barnes. It’s just a matter of working with it.”