Gooner, my oldest tested into APP this time last year, which is basically like Spectrum but with the somewhat added benefit of guaranteeing kids a spot at Lowell vs hoping for a spot at Whittier. After much soul searching & touring, plus questioning all sorts of teachers, etc at Adams and at Lowell, we opted to stay at Adams. My concerns were much like yours, the security and comfort of a known school and good friends, vs the whole "great opportunity" of an advanced program, etc. We really loved the community at Adams, and felt that he had thrived there in personal ways, plus the art and music programs at Lowell didn't even begin to compare to what is happening at Adams... And we loved the ALO option, especially that it would preserve APP eligibility for junior high and high school.
For the most part, we have been THRILLED with our ALO experience. That said, I think it really comes down to your teacher, and the community of kids around you. When we were debating what to do, we were fortunate enough to have several friends facing the same decision. Most of us opted to stay at Adams (which actually has the second highest number of spectrum/APP eligible kids who stay at their home school, after West Woodland), which has definitely alleviated some of our concerns about having a group of similarly situated students both for companionship and for practical concerns with the school. It also helps to have a GREAT teacher who fully embraces the idea of ALO, which I know not every teacher does. In our case, she has really taken the APP designation seriously. Originally she placed my kiddo in the math class one year ahead of his class, but after Christmas she took the initiative to move him again to the advanced version of that year. In theory, this will keep him on track to be two years ahead by next fall. That was important to us only in terms of easily tranistioning him into the APP program at the junior high level, something that I think we will probably do but haven't committed to yet. (I don't know how much you have been following the debate over junior highs, but the lack of a stable building for the APP program also impacted our decision.)
In theory, ALO should be much easier for reading/writing, since Adams already uses an advanced reading program that differentiates between reading levels. Again, I think this is where a good teacher who believes in ALO makes all the difference. My son's experiences last year were NOT great in this dept, mostly because shyness was mistaken for inability. (Have to say, this is honestly where I felt like the APP designation made the biggest difference; for better or worse it DRAMATICALLY changed how my child's teacher saw him. That one piece of paper suddenly made him much more capable... ;-) )
We do get the ALO report card. My understanding is that the district office automatically provides this for any child that has been "officially" designated Spectrum or APP. I'm not sure how it works with kids who are designated by their teacher. In our case, the report card simply shows if he is meeting or exceeding the standards for one year ahead.
Again, we have been VERY happy with our experience at Adams, but I know a huge part of that is having a great teacher and a great community of parents around us. I have a friend whose APP-eligible daughter ended up with another teacher who has not embraced the ALO program in the same way, and their year has not been great. They will prob move to Lowell in the fall, but at least she won't have to retest or anything. I would encourage you to talk with other folks considering Spectrum. Given the high numbers at Adams, you might be pleasantly surprised how many of your child's friends also qualify. While I certainly don't think it's the only thing that matters when it comes to my kid's friendships, having that peer group has definitely been nice for him. (For example, he isn't the only kid walking to a higher math class, so he doesn't feel self-conscious, etc.) I also have to admit that when it comes to things like working with the administration, etc., there is strength in numbers. As the number of ALO eligible kids has shot up dramatically at Adams, Dr. Johnson has made serious efforts to provide a meaningful ALO experience. I definitely feel like it can be as "real" as you help make it...
OK, sorry if this is sort of rambling! I remember going through this anxiety last year, and all I can say is that we have ZERO regrets about staying at Adams.