Louisiana's 69 public school districts will be asked to fill out detailed surveys on how and why students are being tested despite concerns Thursday that the quiz is so daunting it will have limited value.

The 21 online questions, and the fact they will be due by Oct. 10, sparked controversy on a state panel set up to decide whether students are being overtested.

The committee, called the Commission on Assessment Review and Use in Public Schools, held its first of three meetings Thursday.

It stems from a 2017 state law, and backers contend students are being forced to take too many exams, detracting from valuable instruction time.

Others dispute that view, and they note lots of tests are required by local school districts, not the state.

Under the plan, district officials will be sent online surveys, including a list of exams given from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The panel, after review by state officials, will sift through the results, then consider possible reductions in a January report to the Legislature and the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The issue could be debated during the 2018 Legislature.

What sparked concerns and criticism is the length of the survey, which is supposed to be available to local district officials by Oct. 1 and completed by Oct. 10.

Educators will be asked when tests are given and how long they take; preparation; why the exam is administered; whether proctors are required; who uses the results; when parents get the findings; which assessments have been eliminated in the past two years and why and whether the tests are aligned with state standards.

Other questions will focus on how districts minimize the number of test days; whether the number of local exams have been trimmed and whether high school tests should be reduced.

Critics on the panel said the survey is overwhelming, especially on a tight timeline.

Keith Courville, executive director of the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana and a commission member, said the goal of the study is twofold: what tests are given and how much time do they take.

"Looking at this list I find it is a little overwhelming," Courville said.

Courville and others said the questionnaire could be boiled down to half a dozen or so pertinent questions.

BESE President Gary Jones, who lives in Alexandria, made a similar point.

"I am a little concerned that if we don't simplify this process . . . we will have a lot of information that tells us nothing."

Wade Smith, director of the LSU Lab School, said the survey runs the risk of data overload.

Kevin George, superintendent of the St. John the Baptist school system, said he was sympathetic to the concerns.

But George, who was picked to be chairman of the commission, said the detail in the survey is required by the legislation.

Rebecca Kockler, assistant superintendent of academic content for the state Department of Education, said a pilot project on testing involving 15 school districts has produced positive results.

Kockler, who led much of the discussion, said eight of nine parishes having problems with the volume of tests reduced the quantity of exams after working with an assessment partner.

Doing so, she said, allowed those eight school systems to get back a week of instruction time.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is a longtime advocate of trimming the number of tests.

Department figures show there have been exam reductions in recent years, including trimming LEAP tests from two weeks to one; trimming math tests in grades 3, 4 and 5 from 300 minutes to 235 minutes and English exams for grades 6, 7 and 8 from 345 minutes to 260 minutes.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.