Community concern over the effects of aircraft noise on children’s learning may delay or impede airport development and related capacity improvements. This concern continues to evolve as a result of research indicating that chronic exposure to aircraft noise is associated with reading deficits in children. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), through a long-standing program, awards grants to insulate schools following guidance based on a two-tier set of criteria: the Day-Night Average Sound Level (DNL) being 65 dB or greater with a 45 dB or greater interior noise level. To date, however, there are no data to determine whether this criterion is appropriate for identifying aircraft noise impacts on schools, and there is limited research on what other characteristics should also be included in the evaluation. In 2010 ACRP initiated ACRP Project 02-26, "Assessing Aircraft Noise Conditions Affecting Student Learning," to identify whether the two-tier set of criteria is reasonable for identifying noise impacts on schools. This research, which incorporated a nationwide macro-analysis of the relationship between noise exposure and student performance, taking into account the effect of school sound insulation and other factors, relied on student test scores as a measure of performance. A preliminary version of the draft final report of this study is now available for review. It is important to note that ACRP Project 02-26 did not examine the effects of aircraft noise on interactions within the classroom. To take the next step and measure responses at the classroom level requires observations to determine at what level aircraft noise events cause interruptions within the classroom environment and how student and teacher communication and behavior are affected. These classroom observations would enable a refined approach to developing a more appropriate metric for determining the impact of aircraft noise on student achievement—an approach that would also provide guidance to planners and decision makers when formulating and implementing potential noise reduction programs.
The objectives of this research was to (1) develop and implement a rigorous case study methodology to identify and measure those factors at the individual classroom, student, and teacher level that influence the impact of aircraft noise on student achievement, especially as it relates to reading comprehension; (2) identify appropriate metrics that define the level and characteristics of aircraft noise that impact student achievement; and (3) develop practical guidance for use by decision makers on how to reduce the impact of aircraft noise on student achievement.
The report has now been released as Web Only Document 34
and includes a brochure for wider distribution.