Affirmative action is hard.  So many racial sub-groups, so little room.

A fascinatng new report urges colleges and other education groups to rework the classification schemes for Asian-American students, and says current practices to aggregate data hide inequities. Scott Jaschik of Inside Higher Ed has this analysis.

When Harvard University issued a news release last month about the freshman class it had just admitted, the announcement included information about the racial and ethnic make-up of the newly admitted students. Asian-Americans, the release said, would make up 20.9 percent of the class. Native Hawaiians were grouped with Native Americans, and together those two groups would make up 2.3 percent.

When the College Board released its most recent report on SAT scores, racial and ethnic breakdowns were provided. In one category — with impressive mean scores — were Asian, Asian-American and Pacific Islanders.

Both examples (and there are many more easily to be found) suggest Asian-American academic success. But a report released Thursday calls for the end to such data reporting. It is time to disaggregate data about Asian-American students as much as possible, says the report, issued by the Educational Testing Service and the National Commission on Asian-American and Pacific Islander Research in Education.

The failure of most schools and colleges to do so has resulted in key problems facing Asian-American groups being “overlooked and misunderstood,” said Robert T. Teranishi, associate professor of higher education at New York University and principal investigator for the report, during a news briefing.

Aggregated data “conceals significant disparities,” Teranishi said.

The report’s authors — clearly aware of the stereotype of uniform academic success for Asian-Americans — provide data on the educational attainment (disaggregated of course) of different Asian-American subgroups. Then the report describes how a few colleges and universities have moved toward more nuanced data collection about Asian-Americans, and calls for more colleges to do the same. The report does not set some minimum standard for Asian-American data disaggregation, but suggests that many colleges are far short of where they should be.

And the report argues that just as colleges and other institutions use data to identify problems and track the impact of various strategies, they must do so for different Asian-American subgroups, not all of which are doing as well as the “model minority” image would suggest.