Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Monday apologized for a remark about “white suburban moms” opposing new academic standards being pushed by the Obama administration.

Duncan made the initial remarks during a meeting with state education leaders on Friday, as he sought to defend the Common Core state standards, an initiative that seeks to standardize what students through high school across the country should be taught. The measure includes rigorous testing standards that have been met with opposition from education groups and parents.

The secretary told the meeting that he had been surprised by the opposition from “white” mothers. “All of a sudden, their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were and their school isn’t quite as good as they thought,” he said, according to reports.

On Monday, Duncan said he had not spoken precisely about the issue and that he wanted to stress the need to enforce high standards for all students.

“Obviously I didn’t say them perfectly and I apologize for that,” said Duncan about his remarks in an interview with CNN. “My point was that historically in this country we talk about the achievement gap and talk about the issue related to minority children, my point is that children from every demographic in this country need a well-rounded world class education.”

“So many of our children not just in inner cities but in suburban communities are not getting the education they deserve and so I was challenging the state leaders there to do a better job of communicating with parents across the board, letting them know how important higher standards are, but what it takes for all of us to work to achieve those higher standards,” Duncan explained.

In a blogpost on the Education Department website, Duncan said he had used “clumsy phrasing that I regret.”

The White House on Monday declined to address Duncan's comments, with press secretary Jay Carney saying he had not seen the full remarks.