In a meeting Friday with state education chiefs, Duncan said he found it "fascinating" that opponents of the Common Core initiative include "white suburban moms who -- all of a sudden -- [discovered that] their child isn't as bright as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were," CNN reported.
Duncan issued a statement Monday saying he used "clumsy phrasing" in the discussion.
"We have a tendency in our fast-moving world to focus on controversial-sounding soundbites, instead of the complex policy debates that underlie them," he said. "Unfortunately, I recently played into that dynamic. A few days ago, in a discussion with state education chiefs, I used some clumsy phrasing that I regret -- particularly because it distracted from an important conversation about how to better prepare all of America's students for success."
Duncan said he singled out one group of parents when his "aim was to say that we need to communicate better to all groups -- especially those that haven't been well reached in this conversation."
"I want to encourage a difficult conversation and challenge the underlying assumption that when we talk about the need to improve our nation's schools, we are talking only about poor minority students in inner cities," he said. "This is simply not true. Research demonstrates that as a country, every demographic group has room for improvement."