Are our school classrooms too loud to learn?

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Are our school classrooms too loud to learn?

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An educational researcher says school systems, including his own district of Decatur, fail to address the high noise levels in classrooms from heating and air conditioning units or ongoing construction. (AJC File)

An educational researcher and Decatur parent says schools often ignore a major detriment to student learning, noise levels.

While schools have eliminated many major threats to children’s well-being including lead, asbestos, cigarette smoke and junk food, Dr. C. Aiden Downey says they ignore noise pollutants. Schools allow HVAC or construction noise well above the recommended level for children.

He says his own daughter’s Decatur classroom suffered from an air conditioning unit so loud (60 decibels) the teacher and students named it ‘the Beast’ and held their class discussions before it powered on and drowned out their voices.

“But for some reason we have not put the same effort or into combating a form of pollution that is a not so silent killer of learning – noise. I welcome the day when we treat a blaring HVAC unit with the same level of concern that we would a lit cigarette in schools. Until we do, our children will continue to learn far less than they should in schools,” says Dr. Downey.

Research shows when noise levels in schools go up, learning goes down, says Dr. Downey. Noise distracts and disrupts, making it harder to listen, focus, work, concentrate and learn. He says children in loud classrooms lag behind those in less noisy ones in terms of speech perception, expressive word learning, and learning how to read.

To learn more about noisy classrooms and Dr. Downey’s efforts to make his case in Decatur, go the AJC Get Schooled blog.

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