The real issue in math education is getting the kids through Algebra.....if they stop before Algebra, they are done.
The issue there is teachers do not understand how to make math exciting and fun. They need the ability to make interesting for 12 year olds. That's a tough game.
Real-life applications would go a long way towards keeping them interested. When they ask, "When am I ever gonna have to use this," there needs to be a better answer than, "Tonight when you're doing your homework."