Sounding an Alarm: Background Noise Can Hurt Student Achievement

From echoing hallways and droning air conditioners to loud lectures and whispered secrets, schools can be noisy places. But a new study suggests high background noise can significantly distract some students during testing time.

In a new study in the journal Urban Education, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, researchers Bo Zhang and Regina Navejar tracked 122 high school students’ reactions to background noise in a large, high-poverty urban school district.

Prior research suggests even moderate background noise above 65 decibels—about the level of a noisy classroom—can be distracting and cause problems if it is consistent over time.

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