Platform to Improve Teacher Quality Wins $25,000 Prize Sponsored by Yale School of Public Health

When Chris Cutrona was teaching high school math in a large urban district in the South, he quickly saw that teacher quality was a critical element in improving outcomes—and future opportunities—for students.

Toward this, his district, like most others, offered instructional coaching to educators so that they could hone their skills and create a more engaging and meaningful experience for young learners.

The Thorne Prize will allow us to expand our impact.

Chris Cutrona

While instructional coaching is a common approach to professional development, his district and many others did not have a meaningful way to track their programs and gauge whether they were effectively improving teacher performance.

EdSightful was born.

Now a student at Yale, Cutrona developed EdSightful—a technology solution that uses Google Suite to allow instructional coaches to document their support and large and small districts to easily see an overview of their programs and determine their efficacy.

While the tool is still in its infancy, the concept and its potential impressed a panel of five judges from industry and academia that they awarded Cutrona the $25,000 Thorne Prize for Social Innovation in Health or Education this month.

The Thorne Prize is the signature competition of InnovateHealth Yale, a program at the Yale School of Public Health created to tap student ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit to find solutions to pressing health and education challenges. The prize is to be used as seed capital to further develop the winning plan and to move it into implementation.

Now in its sixth year, the Thorne Prize has disbursed a total of $150,000 to   six teams of Yale students. The winning ideas have run the gamut from Khushi Baby, which developed a microchip that is worn in a necklace to track health records in rural India, to Easy EC, which designed a web-based tool to allow teenagers to quickly and confidentially get information on emergency contraception.

Currently, Cutrona, the sole founder of EdSightful, is performing all roles for the small startup—new sales, maintaining client relationships and software development.  He plan to use the Thorne prize to help generate new sales by attending conferences with captive audiences and hiring someone to help with the sales process. As the company grows, he wants to hire someone to help with the software development.

Chris Cutrona pitches an idea to improve teacher quality through a start-up he created known as EdSightful.
Chris Cutrona pitches an idea to improve teacher quality through a start-up he created known as EdSightful.

“The Thorne Prize will allow us to expand our impact,” said Cutrona, an MBA student at the School of Management. “We currently have two paying clients and our goal for this summer is to get five new clients—this prize will directly help us do this.”

Cutrona and three other finalists who competed for the Thorne Prize each made 30-minute presentations to a panel of judges at the School of Management on April 5. The other three teams who competed this year were:


  • Brio Fund: A nonprofit venture that seeks to catalyzes mental health innovation in vulnerable communities through local partnerships.
  • Visionairy Health: An automated screening solution for chest radiographs to improve radiologists’ efficiency and patient outcomes.
  • WISSP: A platform that networks tenants, landlords, and social services together to improve housing

Fatema Basrai, assistant director of InnovateHealth Yale, said that this year’s competition demonstrates again that students are passionate about improving health and educational outcomes—and they have some great ideas on how to accomplish it.

“All the ideas received this year for the Thorne Prize were wonderful. It’s so refreshing to see the Yale community embracing social innovation in the public health and education space,” Basrai said

She credited Martin Klein, the founded of InnovateHealth Yale, for the success of the Thorne Prize and for contributing to the growing movement of student entrepreneurism at Yale.

Yale School of Public Health Dean Sten H. Vermund attended Friday’s competition and praised InnovateHealth Yale for encouraging student-led solutions.

“The process leading to the award of the Thorne Prize enables health- and education-oriented social entrepreneurs to refine and develop their concepts within a nurturing and rigorous academic environment,” he said.  “Our alumni and friends of YSPH complement the faculty input with hard-nosed business acumen, rounding out the experience for our competitive teams.”

This year’s panel of judges included Margaret Yates Thorne, the creator of the Thorne Prize and managing partner of Sociable Weavers and owner of Niknats; Raj Gorla, CEO of  Contineo Health and managing partner of Equilateral Ventures; David Thomas, managing partner of Court Square; Tekisha Dwan Everette, Executive Director of Health Equity Solutions; and Christopher McLeod, managing partner of Elm Street Ventures.

To learn more about InnovateHealth Yale and the Thorne Prize, visit ihy.yale.edu.

This article was submitted by Colin Poitras on April 12, 2019.

Related People

Fatema Basrai

Assistant Director, InnovateHealth Yale

Martin Klein

Senior Advisor, Dean's Office

Sten H. Vermund

Dean and Anna M.R. Lauder Professor of Public Health