Washington (CNN) -- The chancellor of the District of Columbia's Public Schools announced she was stepping down Wednesday, after three-and-a-half years as head of the troubled school system.
"The best way to keep the reforms going is for this reformer to step aside," Michelle Rhee said in announcing her resignation.
Her time in office included successes in the form of higher test scores for D.C. students and a win in the second round of Race to the Top, a federal education program that provides funds to states that have innovative plans in education.
However, Rhee also frustrated the school system's teachers with layoffs for those who didn't meet new evaluation criteria. Both local and national teacher unions fought her changes.
"All across the country now because of Chancellor Rhee and her team, from the White House to documentaries, people are touting D.C. as a model for how to attack bureaucracy and get results in an urban school system," outgoing D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty said.
The school system in the nation's capital is one focus of the documentary "Waiting for Superman," which also features Rhee as a key voice in advocating for school reform.
Rhee was Fenty's choice to run the school system when he took office. At Wednesday's news conference, the outgoing chancellor described her departure as a "mutual decision" between herself and incoming Mayor Vincent Gray.
"I've put my blood, sweat and tears into the children of the District of Columbia for the last three and a half years and I have completely enjoyed every minute of it," Rhee said.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised Rhee as a leader of change.
"Michelle Rhee has been a pivotal leader in the school reform movement and we expect she will continue to be a force for change wherever she goes," he said in a written statement.
Current D.C. Public Schools Deputy Chancellor Kaya Henderson will take over as the interim chancellor at the end of the month.
Rhee said she plans to take some time off and spend more time in Sacramento, California. She is engaged to Sacramento mayor and former NBA player Kevin Johnson.