per this feature suggestion: https://sourceforge.net/p/classicshell/feature-requests/254/
I realized that auto-logon is indeed the behavior I normally experience when starting up my computer, but it doesn't always happen. sometimes it still goes to the windows metro screen and doesn't log on to the desktop. I see no apparent pattern to these exceptions.
I do not have Spy++ or any other Start menu replacements. This is a brand new computer I haven't even transferred any data or settings from my old computer yet (except what Google Chrome does automatically). Other than what was pre-installed by Lenovo (including Norton Internet Security 2013, this is a thinkpad t530), and changes in windows settings, updates, etc, the only things I changed about the computer are installing the following programs:
Microsoft Office 2007
Adobe CS3 Design Premium
Pinnacle Studio 15
and the following from Ninite in one installer package:
Java x64 7